Did you go to church Sunday? Did you take time to pray today? The freedom to engage in those two activities is often taken for granted. But for those believers in China and Russia, it’s really risky behavior. Recent newspaper and magazine articles tell of religious crackdowns in these two Communist countries that are as severe as in the days of Stalin and Mao.
According to the Christian Post newspaper in a July 16 article by Stoyan Zaimov, Chinese students in the Guizan Province are being told to stop going to church or be banned from going to college. Parents are forbidden from taking their children to church or the students will not be allowed to take college entrance exams or be admitted to the military. The excuse is that children under 18 should not be subjected to brainwashing.
In other areas of China, churches are ordered to remove outside crosses or they are torn down by authorities. House churches are under strict scrutiny and forced to turn over all tithes and offerings to the government. Church pastors and members who protest this unfair treatment are subject to arrest.
A new law went into effect in Russia on July 20, 2016 that prohibits evangelizing outside of a recognized and government authorized church. Severe limits have been placed on preaching and teaching the Gospel. This includes activities in homes and online. This report written in Christianity Today by Kate Shellnutt explains that Russian nationalistic identity is tied to the Russian Orthodox Church and that those outside the established church who engage in missionary work will be severely punished.
For ten years my daughter-in-law’s parents, Charles & Phyllis Hardie, served as missionaries in Novosibirsk, Russia. They entered Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. That window of opportunity allowed them to preach and spread the Gospel to many who might never have heard. They encountered all kinds of opposition from the Russian Orthodox Church. Now that the doors are closing again to evangelical Christianity, I pray that the seeds they planted will continue to grow and flourish.
Why are totalitarian regimes threatened by Christianity? I can think of several reasons.
- Christianity preaches a gospel of freedom. Freedom from sin and freedom of conscience proclaims that the individual should not be controlled by the State.
- Christians believe in the supremacy of God and Jesus and obedience to God and Jesus as their ultimate authority and not the government.
- Christians do, however, believe that civil allegiance is owed to the State and that Christians should pray for their leaders.
- Communist controlled societies are atheistic and do not believe in the existence of God and Christianity’s belief in God is a threat to their disbelief.
Many Bible verses talk about Christian persecution and how Christians are to bear up in times of distress. 1 Peter 3:16 “Keep a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.”
Theologian William Barclay said “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”
Pray for Christians who are being persecuted in Russia and China and for those whose lives are in danger at the hands of ISIS and other evil groups. And be willing to take a stand against those who would place limitations upon the spread of the Gospel here in America.