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Religious Regulations and the Cross

In our Chinese Church Voices column this month, we have published translated articles with differing perspectives on the new religious regulations. One was written by a house church pastor, and the other by someone more supportive of the regulations. Their perspectives and conclusions were, to put it mildly, quite different.

On February 8, our friends at China Partnership published on their blog a post titled ”China’s New Religious Regulations: Suffering in the Shadow of the Cross.” In it the writer, a foreigner working in China, reminds us again, that these regulations herald a new normal, one that could spell much trouble for Chinese and foreigners alike:

In China we are all waiting to see what February 2018 will bring. The government’s new policies on unregistered Christian gatherings and activities could bring many of us, both locals and foreigners who are involved in such kinds of unregistered ministries, a lot of trouble. I was just in a meeting with our local presbytery discussing how churches will respond to potential arrests, confiscation of property, or disruption from the authorities of our normal church life. For all of us leaders this is not theoretical. It is reality. It is part of the docket of items that must be discussed and addressed alongside how we are going to handle other “normal” items of church life.

As for how pastors within his network are responding, he has this to say:

I have heard more than one Chinese pastor in mainland China exclaim that they do not pray for the suffering and harassment of the church in China to cease; rather, they pray that God would use it to continue to purify the church. It is important to make a point of clarification here about what Peter is not saying. He most certainly is not saying that if you suffer in the world you will automatically not have to suffer in the flesh. Rather the emphasis is clearly on arming ourselves with a mindset that in some way or another we will suffer. To put it another way, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12).

He concludes with an observation that there is much that believers in the west have to learn from our brothers and sisters in China, particularly as it relates to suffering. Hint: it’s all about the cross.

One of the blessings of working with the house church in China is that they are a marginalized, disadvantaged community. At the same time, they are a growing and influential community. So much so that both Christian and non-Christian journalists and scholars cannot ignore the impact the church is having. 

As a result of my own ethnographic interviews, church leaders have identified themselves as a “teenager” in comparison with what is going on in the church globally. A teenager that is eager to learn, but sometimes cocky about what they know. A teenager that is growing fast, but needs to learn how to govern themselves through wisdom. They admit they have much to learn. 

But our “teenager” brothers and sisters in China also have something to teach the rest of the world. They know of suffering in the shadow of the cross. With them, it is time we all grow in our understanding of the theology of the cross and of Peter’s words: “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.”

I encourage you to visit the China Partnership Blog and read the entire article.

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Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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