I thank God from the bottom of my heart that I was born in a free country to Christian parents who raised me in a God-fearing, Bible-believing church. Many Christians in America, myself included, far too often take for granted the religious liberty we enjoy. While Christians around the world face persecution for being so bold as even to own a Bible, Christians in the United States can hardly be bothered to pick up one from their assorted selection on the shelf.
In the midst of squabbling about differences in translation and researching which commentary is best, we sometimes fail to appreciate the sheer privilege of having such unrestricted access to the Word of God. While it’s hard to say how many countries have a flat ban on the Bible, there are at least 50 countries with restricted access.
Christianity is not American, and America is not Christian. The historical man Jesus Christ was of Jewish descent and resurrected in the Middle East, and the early church spread the gospel — the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ — all over the world.
Today, you can find Christians in nearly every corner of the earth. Though in many areas there is limited access to the Bible because of militant persecution, the church lives on. Historically the church has thrived best when under fire. For example, the modern Christian church in China is being persecuted beyond what many local Christians can fathom.
I visited China a couple of weeks ago, and on first look, it seemed very similar to the United States. There is modern infrastructure, cityscape, and even American fast food chains. However, there is one particular characteristic the United States boasts, but China is quite lacking in: freedom. The threefold freedom that citizens of the United States enjoy, that of speech, press, and religion, Chinese citizens know nothing about. The government owns, oversees, and controls nearly everything.
Journalists are not free to criticize them. As a journalist, this kind of government is a nightmare for me. Freedom of speech is hands-down my favorite aspect of our culture. I love that I can think critically, express my opinions, and challenge the system when needed. Sadly, my Chinese friends do not enjoy this same freedom.
Worse, still, is the government’s attempt to monitor and mandate Christianity within its borders. I left China from Beijing on Monday evening, March 18, to travel home to the United States. Just five days later, about 20 police officers and government officials raided Bible classes being held by Shouwang Church in Beijing, according to persecution.org.
They demanded that they cease activities, reading from an official document concerning the church, stating they violated the Regulations on the Registration and Management of Social Organizations. Everyone in attendance was detained in another location and questioned by authorities.
All of them were asked to sign a letter saying they would not attend the church anymore. All of them refused. It didn’t end there, but you can read more about that for yourself online.
The point is this: try as they might, the gospel and Christianity are not at the mercy of the presiding powers of this modern age. The gospel is at the mercy of God, who is not bound by culture, time, or place — even government authorities. Though I thank God for the freedom I have here at home to practice my religion freely, I recognize the beauty of the fact that the gospel is accessible to all nations, tongues, tribes, under all types of governments.
To my brothers and sisters in Christ in Beijing, I and the others here are praying for you, that you would be brought nearer to Christ through your suffering and persecution. To my brothers and sisters here, let us be reminded that our national identity as Americans has nothing to do with our Christian faith.
Yes, we thank God for the freedoms we enjoy, but we recognize that the bond we share with peoples across the world as Christians, runs so much deeper than any patriotism we may entertain. And as Christians, we certainly desire justice and freedom for all peoples.