Wang Yi, Pastor in Mainland China
This article was originally posted on China Partnership in 12/12/18 with the title "My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience."
Editor’s note from China Partnership: Over 100 members of Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China, were arrested beginning Sunday, December 9. At the time of publication of this translation, arrests are still being made. Among those taken away were Pastor Wang Yi, senior pastor of Early Rain, and his wife, Jiang Rong, who have not been heard from since Sunday.
Foreseeing this circumstance, Pastor Wang Yi wrote the declaration below to be published by his church should he be detained for more than 48 hours. In it he explains the meaning and necessity of faithful disobedience, how it is distinct from political activism or civil disobedience, and how Christians should carry it out. We thank Brent Pinkall and Amy Cheung for their contributions in translating this letter.
On the basis of the teachings of the Bible and the mission of the gospel, I respect the authorities God has established in China. For God deposes kings and raises up kings. This is why I submit to the historical and institutional arrangements of God in China.
As a pastor of a Christian church, I have my own understanding and views, based on the Bible, about what righteous order and good government is. At the same time, I am filled with anger and disgust at the persecution of the church by this Communist regime, at the wickedness of their depriving people of the freedoms of religion and of conscience. But changing social and political institutions is not the mission I have been called to, and it is not the goal for which God has given his people the gospel.
For all hideous realities, unrighteous politics, and arbitrary laws manifest the cross of Jesus Christ, the only means by which every Chinese person must be saved. They also manifest the fact that true hope and a perfect society will never be found in the transformation of any earthly institution or culture but only in our sins being freely forgiven by Christ and in the hope of eternal life.
As a pastor, my firm belief in the gospel, my teaching, and my rebuking of all evil proceeds from Christ’s command in the gospel and from the unfathomable love of that glorious King. Every man’s life is extremely short, and God fervently commands the church to lead and call any man to repentance who is willing to repent. Christ is eager and willing to forgive all who turn from their sins. This is the goal of all the efforts of the church in China—to testify to the world about our Christ, to testify to the Middle Kingdom about the Kingdom of Heaven, to testify to earthly, momentary lives about heavenly, eternal life. This is also the pastoral calling that I have received.
For this reason, I accept and respect the fact that this Communist regime has been allowed by God to rule temporarily. As the Lord’s servant John Calvin said, wicked rulers are the judgment of God on a wicked people, the goal being to urge God’s people to repent and turn again toward Him. For this reason, I am joyfully willing to submit myself to their enforcement of the law as though submitting to the discipline and training of the Lord.
At the same time, I believe that this Communist regime’s persecution against the church is a greatly wicked, unlawful action. As a pastor of a Christian church, I must denounce this wickedness openly and severely. The calling that I have received requires me to use non-violent methods to disobey those human laws that disobey the Bible and God. My Savior Christ also requires me to joyfully bear all costs for disobeying wicked laws.
But this does not mean that my personal disobedience and the disobedience of the church is in any sense “fighting for rights” or political activism in the form of civil disobedience, because I do not have the intention of changing any institutions or laws of China. As a pastor, the only thing I care about is the disruption of man’s sinful nature by this faithful disobedience and the testimony it bears for the cross of Christ.
As a pastor, my disobedience is one part of the gospel commission. Christ’s great commission requires of us great disobedience. The goal of disobedience is not to change the world but to testify about another world.
For the mission of the church is only to be the church and not to become a part of any secular institution. From a negative perspective, the church must separate itself from the world and keep itself from being institutionalized by the world. From a positive perspective, all acts of the church are attempts to prove to the world the real existence of another world. The Bible teaches us that, in all matters relating to the gospel and human conscience, we must obey God and not men. For this reason, spiritual disobedience and bodily suffering are both ways we testify to another eternal world and to another glorious King.
This is why I am not interested in changing any political or legal institutions in China. I’m not even interested in the question of when the Communist regime’s policies persecuting the church will change. Regardless of which regime I live under now or in the future, as long as the secular government continues to persecute the church, violating human consciences that belong to God alone, I will continue my faithful disobedience. For the entire commission God has given me is to let more Chinese people know through my actions that the hope of humanity and society is only in the redemption of Christ, in the supernatural, gracious sovereignty of God.
If God decides to use the persecution of this Communist regime against the church to help more Chinese people to despair of their futures, to lead them through a wilderness of spiritual disillusionment and through this to make them know Jesus, if through this he continues disciplining and building up his church, then I am joyfully willing to submit to God’s plans, for his plans are always benevolent and good.
Precisely because none of my words and actions are directed toward seeking and hoping for societal and political transformation, I have no fear of any social or political power. For the Bible teaches us that God establishes governmental authorities in order to terrorize evildoers, not to terrorize doers of good. If believers in Jesus do no wrong then they should not be afraid of dark powers. Even though I am often weak, I firmly believe this is the promise of the gospel. It is what I’ve devoted all of my energy to. It is the good news that I am spreading throughout Chinese society.
I also understand that this happens to be the very reason why the Communist regime is filled with fear at a church that is no longer afraid of it.
If I am imprisoned for a long or short period of time, if I can help reduce the authorities’ fear of my faith and of my Savior, I am very joyfully willing to help them in this way. But I know that only when I renounce all the wickedness of this persecution against the church and use peaceful means to disobey, will I truly be able to help the souls of the authorities and law enforcement. I hope God uses me, by means of first losing my personal freedom, to tell those who have deprived me of my personal freedom that there is an authority higher than their authority, and that there is a freedom that they cannot restrain, a freedom that fills the church of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ.
Regardless of what crime the government charges me with, whatever filth they fling at me, as long as this charge is related to my faith, my writings, my comments, and my teachings, it is merely a lie and temptation of demons. I categorically deny it. I will serve my sentence, but I will not serve the law. I will be executed, but I will not plead guilty.
Moreover, I must point out that persecution against the Lord’s church and against all Chinese people who believe in Jesus Christ is the most wicked and the most horrendous evil of Chinese society. This is not only a sin against Christians. It is also a sin against all non-Christians. For the government is brutally and ruthlessly threatening them and hindering them from coming to Jesus. There is no greater wickedness in the world than this.
If this regime is one day overthrown by God, it will be for no other reason than God’s righteous punishment and revenge for this evil. For on earth, there has only ever been a thousand-year church. There has never been a thousand-year government. There is only eternal faith. There is no eternal power.
Those who lock me up will one day be locked up by angels. Those who interrogate me will finally be questioned and judged by Christ. When I think of this, the Lord fills me with a natural compassion and grief toward those who are attempting to and actively imprisoning me. Pray that the Lord would use me, that he would grant me patience and wisdom, that I might take the gospel to them.
Separate me from my wife and children, ruin my reputation, destroy my life and my family – the authorities are capable of doing all of these things. However, no one in this world can force me to renounce my faith; no one can make me change my life; and no one can raise me from the dead.
And so, respectable officers, stop committing evil. This is not for my benefit but rather for yours and your children’s. I plead earnestly with you to stay your hands, for why should you be willing to pay the price of eternal damnation in hell for the sake of a lowly sinner such as I?
Jesus is the Christ, son of the eternal, living God. He died for sinners and rose to life for us. He is my king and the king of the whole earth yesterday, today, and forever. I am his servant, and I am imprisoned because of this. I will resist in meekness those who resist God, and I will joyfully violate all laws that violate God’s laws.
Appendix: What Constitutes Faithful Disobedience
I firmly believe that the Bible has not given any branch of any government the authority to run the church or to interfere with the faith of Christians. Therefore, the Bible demands that I, through peaceable means, in meek resistance and active forbearance, filled with joy, resist all administrative policies and legal measures that oppress the church and interfere with the faith of Christians.
I firmly believe this is a spiritual act of disobedience. In modern authoritarian regimes that persecute the church and oppose the gospel, spiritual disobedience is an inevitable part of the gospel movement.
I firmly believe that spiritual disobedience is an act of the last times; it is a witness to God’s eternal kingdom in the temporal kingdom of sin and evil. Disobedient Christians follow the example of the crucified Christ by walking the path of the cross. Peaceful disobedience is the way in which we love the world as well as the way in which we avoid becoming part of the world.
I firmly believe that in carrying out spiritual disobedience, the Bible demands me to rely on the grace and resurrection power of Christ, that I must respect and not overstep two boundaries.
The first boundary is that of the heart. Love toward the soul, and not hatred toward the body, is the motivation of spiritual disobedience. Transformation of the soul, and not the changing of circumstances, is the aim of spiritual disobedience. At any time, if external oppression and violence rob me of inner peace and endurance, so that my heart begins to breed hatred and bitterness toward those who persecute the church and abuse Christians, then spiritual disobedience fails at that point.
The second boundary is that of behavior. The gospel demands that disobedience of faith must be non-violent. The mystery of the gospel lies in actively suffering, even being willing to endure unrighteous punishment, as a substitute for physical resistance. Peaceful disobedience is the result of love and forgiveness. The cross means being willing to suffer when one does not have to suffer. For Christ had limitless ability to fight back, yet he endured all of the humility and hurt. The way that Christ resisted the world that resisted him was by extending an olive branch of peace on the cross to the world that crucified him.
I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church. This is the means by which I preach the gospel, and it is the mystery of the gospel which I preach.
The Lord’s servant,
John Allen Chau was a young American who was determined to reach the Sentinelese people with the Gospel. He worked hard to prepare himself for an initial encounter with this tribal group. Unfortunately, in the providence of God, his attempt to communicate the love of God with this fierce and isolated tribe ended when he was killed by them last month. Like other missionary martyrs who have preceded him, John Chau placed his passion for making Christ known above his own safety. This month we are letting John speak from the grave by sharing excerpts from his journal in the days before his murder.
“I’ve been in a safe house in Port Blair since returning from Hut Bay, Little Andaman for the past eleven days!”
“Being stuck in the safe house meant that I hadn’t seen any full sunlight till today…the benefit is that I was essentially in quarantine.”
“[British Colonialists] failed to be a blessing to the nations and rejected the commands of Jesus.”
“The meeting [with fishermen] went well – I trust, although I am the only English speaker so there is quite a language gap; I am relying on the holy spirit to direct us.”
“Remember, the first one to heaven wins.”
“God, I thank you for choosing me, before I was even yet formed in my mother’s womb, to be Your messenger of Your Good news to the people of North Sentinel Island.”
“Even my heritage points to you – me, an American citizen, part Irish, part Native American (Choctaw), part African, and part Chinese and southeast Asian – thank You Father for using me, for shaping me and molding me to be Your ambassador.”
“Please continue to keep all of us indeed hidden from the physical and spiritual forces who desire to keep the people here in darkness. Holy Spirit please open the hearts of the tribe to receive me and by receiving me, to receive You. May Your kingdom, Your rule and reign come now to North Sentinel Island. My life is in your hands, O Father, so into Your hands I commit my Spirit.”
“His plan will succeed and I pray that not my will nor my plan be done but only His good, pleasing and perfect will. Forever You Jesus, are to be praised.”
“Left last night around 2000 and arrived around 2230 or so but as we went north along the eastern shore, we saw boat lights in distance along the north shore and turned around. Headed south along the eastern shore and evaded them, went along the southern shore and up along the western shore. All along the way, our boat was highlighted by bioluminescent planktons – and as fish jumped nearby, we could see their line darting mermaids shimmering along. The Milky Way was above and God himself was shielding us from the coast guard and navy patrols.”
“One blocked while other waded along the coast, then little third with bow and arrow came down the middle and I figured that this was it.”
“They had two arrows each, unstrung, until they got closer.”
“…well built with a round face one fly on right face cheek and yellowish pigment in circles on his cheeks and about 5ft 5”.”
“[I] disembarked my kayak to show them that I too have two legs.”
“My name is John, I love you and Jesus loves you. Jesus Christ gave me authority to come to you. Here is some fish!”
“I regret I began to panic slightly as I saw them string arrows in their bows. He threw the fish toward them, but the men kept running and were almost within arrow range.”
“I stumbled back and recall yelling at the kid for shooting me – now as I look back at it, my Bible cover looks like bark – like tree bark, so maybe he was just curious but yikes, it sure gave me a fright.”
“I turned and paddled like I never have in my life back to the boat. I felt some fear but mainly was disappointed they didn’t accept me right away. I can now say I’ve been nearly shot by the Sentinelese.”
“They burst out laughing most of the time, so they probably were saying bad words or insulting me. They were also yelling into the forest behind the hut.”
“I couldn’t tell if they were truly unarmed or not. So still I got a safe distance away and dropped off the fish and gifts and at first they poled their dugout past the gifts and were coming at me, then they turned and grabbed the gifts.”
“Then the little kid with bow and arrow came down the middle and I figured that was it.”
“The little man shot me with an arrow – directly into my Bible which I was holding off my chest. I grabbed the arrow shaft in front it broke in my Bible (on pg 433 Isaiah 63:5-65:2) and felt the arrowhead. It was metal, thin but very sharp.”
“I saw the boat with figures with their arms up waving and I thought briefly that another group of Sentinelese had attacked the boat while they were watching me but thank God that wasn’t the case. Although I now have no kayak, or my small pelican and its contents, I’m grateful that I still have the written word of God.”
“I’m scared… There, I said it…also frustrated and uncertain – is it worth me going on feet to meet them?”
“Lord… if you want me to get actually shot or even killed with an arrow, then so be it. I think I could be more useful alive though, but to you, God, I give all the glory of whatever happens. I DON’T WANT to DIE! Would it be wiser to leave and let someone else continue? No. I don’t think so – I’m stuck here anyway without a passport and have been off the grid. I still could make it back to the US somehow as it almost seems like certain death to stay here. Yet there is evidenced change in just two encounters in a single day. Will try again tomorrow.”
“Watching the sunset and its beautiful – crying a bit… wondering if it’ll be the last sunset I see before being in the place where the sun never sets…”
“God, I don’t want to die. Who will take my place if I do? Oh God, I miss my parents, my mom and my dad… I’ve never felt this much grief or sorrow before. WHY! Why did a little kid have to shoot me today? His high pitched voice still lingers in my head. Father, forgive him and any of the people on this island who try to kill me, and especially forgive them if they succeed.”
“What made them become this defensive and hostile? Legends passed down through the millennia of their escape from a slave ship? Why does this beautiful place have to have so much death here?”
“Last night, I had what I’d call a vision as I’ve never had one before – my eyes were shut but I wasn’t asleep and I saw a purple hue over an island-like city as a meteorite or star fell to it and it was a frightening city with jagged spires and I felt distressed. Then a different light, a whitish light filled it and all the frightening bits melted away.”
“Lord is this island Satan’s last stronghold where none have heard or even had a chance to hear your name?”
“Lord strengthen me as I need your strength and protection and guidance and all that you give and are. Whoever comes after me to take my place, whether it’s after tomorrow or another time, please give them a double anointing and bless them mightily.”
“If it goes badly on foot the fisherman won’t have to bear witness to my death.”
“Perfect LOVE casts out fear. LORD Jesus, fill me with your perfect love for these people!”
“Woke up after a fairly restful sleep, heading to island now. I hope this isn’t my last notes but if it is, to God be the glory.”
“You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people. Please do not be angry at them or at God If I get killed – rather, please live your lives in obedience to whatever he has called you to and I’ll see you again when you pass through the veil. Don’t retrieve my body. This is not a pointless thing – the eternal lives of this tribe is at hand and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshiping in their own language as Revelation 7:9-10 states.”
“I pray that you will never love anything in this world more than you love Christ.”
“Soli Deo Gloria, John Chau”
Max Burak, Sophomore Bible Major
Why? Why Me?
Why do I have to wake up at 5:30 every morning?
Why’d I have to turn down that counselor spot at the Wilds?
Why do I have to work two jobs while some of my friends get to do whatever they want?
Why does my family not make nearly as much as some of the other families in ministry?
If I’ve got to witness for God anyway, why can’t I be doing it on some exciting trip across the world?
Why? Why? WHY?
These were the questions that regularly popped into my mind during the first few weeks of summer. I was frustrated.
Growing up as a “PK” (pastor’s kid), I’ve heard Mark 16:15 more times than I can count. The verse of course talks about going into “the whole world” to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
After spending a year at Bob Jones University, and having numerous summer opportunities thrown in my lap, I was ready to live out this verse! I was ready to go out in the world for God and come back to school from a rewarding summer full of a fruitful harvest of souls!
However, going back to Ace Hardware and Tim Horton’s to work wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for this past summer. Listening to old men babble on and on about their latest car problem isn’t my favorite thing in the world, and having a middle-aged business woman yell impatiently for her mocha isn’t exactly my cup of tea…or coffee for that matter.
But, I wanted to get back to school for sophomore year, and my bank account wasn’t going to allow that unless I got some serious money, which is why I couldn’t afford to take a counselor spot or go on a mission trip.
So, there I was, sharpening lawn mower blades and toasting asiago bagels.
Then one day, while unloading a truck with one of my co-workers (we’ll call him Timothy), something came to mind. Tim was still working. Now, before you wonder why that’s odd, let me explain.
I had met Tim the year before, one of the first guys I ever met on the job. He’s two years older than me, has short dark curly hair, and treats everyday as a party. I had never met someone quite like him. He quickly became my main witnessing “target.”
Of course, in a work place, between a steady flow of customers and a strict boss, there aren’t exactly prime opportunities to strike up a deep spiritual conversation with a fellow co-worker. So, I resorted to the only other thing I knew. I prayed for him like I’d never prayed for any other unsaved friend. I continually thought of Colossians 4:2-6 where it talks about having an “open door for the Word.” I prayed. I prayed every night for Timothy.
Then, the week before I left for freshman year, I heard the news that he was getting his long awaited apprenticeship and wouldn’t be back by the time I returned next summer.
At school, I continued to pray. I tried to remember him every night and would even mention him in prayer meetings.
So, long story short, I get back and he was still working! He told me that the apprenticeship had fallen through and that he’d be sticking around a bit longer.
Interesting. Maybe God would provide a witnessing opportunity after all?
Back to prayer. Shoot him a text. More prayer. Ugh, how could I get a time to talk to him about the Gospel?!
Then, finally, on a slow Friday night, we had ended up on the same closing shift (which is rare).
There we were, stocking nuts and bolts, and I saw my chance for a conversation.
“Tim, don’t you ever get tired of going out every night and getting drunk?”
He surprisingly responded, “You know Maximillz, yea, I do.”
Well, one question led to another, and suddenly, we were talking about family, then religion, then… eternity.
Tim was close to tears, we had somehow gotten away with talking for two hours about where he was spiritually and how he could fix his sin. I’d never felt the Holy Spirit work like that before. It was absolutely incredible.
He had some more questions, and after we closed, we headed over to the church where we sat with my Dad.
We talked for another solid hour and Tim prayed. I honestly don’t know if he came to accept Christ as Savior that night. I don’t know if he fully understood, but I do know that God had answered my prayers. He had given me that open door to share the Gospel.
I was utterly blown away. I can’t even describe it. It was amazing!
Then, the next week, Tim got an apprenticeship and I never worked with him again.
After that experience, God gave me other conversations with unsaved co-workers. He opened my eyes to why he had me back in those jobs. There are many stories I could tell you, but this is the one that sticks out to me. The Lord revealed my selfishness at that point.
At the end of summer, I was asking some new questions to myself.
Why did I doubt God could use me anywhere?
Why did I complain so much?
Why did I think I needed to go somewhere else to proclaim God’s truth?
Why does school have to start so soon?
God is good! We shouldn’t doubt His plans. He’ll provide witnessing opportunities as long as we are willing to serve Him and go where he wants.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.