“You shall have no other gods before me.” It is No. 1 on the list of Ten Commandments God gave to His people.
Anyone who follows and worships Christ knows that its placement at the top is significant–a fact Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his regime are well aware of, based on a recent report from Bitter Winter, a website focusing on religious liberty and human rights issues in China.
The website reported that authorities in Luoning county in Henan Province (where China’s underground house church movement started) ordered a registered church to alter the list of the Ten Commandments hanging on the wall during a worship service. The website talked to church members in attendance who shared their accounts.
Reportedly on November 1, about 30 officials from the central “patrol inspection team” for religious supervision and from Luoyang city and Luoning county United Front Work Department arrived at the church in Dongcun village during a worship service to conduct an inspection.
An official inspecting the church stopped in front of the pulpit and pointed to the first of the Ten Commandments displayed on the wall: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
“This must be removed,” he said.
After saying that, the government officials immediately wiped off the commandment.
The church’s leader and believers strongly opposed the removal of the commandment. One believer reportedly said, “This isn’t appropriate. They’re falsifying the words of God! It’s resisting the Lord!”
“Xi Jinping opposes this statement,” an official said. “Who dares not to cooperate? If anyone doesn’t agree, they are fighting against the country.”
The official also warned the church: “This is a national policy. You should have a clear understanding of the situation. Don’t go against the government.”
Believers took down the Ten Commandments sign that day. Later, personnel from the county’s United Front Work Department took a photo of it and reported the incident to their superiors.
One church member recalled, “Back in August, the church’s cross was forcibly dismantled by the government. Now, the Ten Commandments have been converted into the ‘Nine Commandments.’ In China, practicing your faith is difficult.” Another said, “They are trying to corrupt our faith and make us betray God.”
Escalating Situation for Chinese Christians in 2019
The removal of crosses and this incident, in addition to arrests of more than 100 believers and last month’s closures of the Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu and the Rongguili Church in the port city of Guangzhou–both prominent underground house churches in China–continues to signal significant change for China’s Christians and churches in 2019.
Not since China’s Cultural Revolution led by Mao Zedong has the church in China seen this level of persecution. China has become one of a growing number of Bible banned countries. Last year, the state banned sales of the Bible, introduced a new version of the Bible revised by the Chinese Communist Party and required that “core socialist values” be taught as doctrine in all churches.
“The situation in China is likely to continue to escalate as the Chinese Communist Party increases its power and focuses on Chinese nationalism,” says Open Doors CEO David Curry.
“There will be even more pressure on the Body of Christ in China,” Curry continued. ”The government is trying to force out unregistered churches. Those churches that are registered, they approve sermons, these kinds of things, slowly turning up the heat and making it a ‘Chinese’ church, not a church of Jesus.”
Since assuming office in late 2012, Xi Jinping continues to increase his power. In October 2017’s meeting of the Communist Party Congress, he was granted another term, and the party put his policies into the Chinese constitution, granting it the same level of authority in the country as former Chinese leader Mao Zedong. “Xi Jinping Thought” has now been introduced as a guiding force for China. The New York Times reported the action “sent a clear signal to officials throughout China that questioning Mr. Xi and his policies would be ideological heresy.”
In the lead up to the Congress, World Watch List (the Open Doors research unit) analyst Thomas Muller said the elevation of Xi’s thought fits into a pattern of increasing restrictions on religion.
“The preferred line of thinking is emphasized by introducing President Xi Jinping’s own brand of ‘political thought’ into the Party constitution, tying ideology closer to the budding personality cult around him,” Muller explains. “Fitting into this pattern is a book recently published by the Central Party School, demanding that all students learn from President Xi’s experiences as a teenager during the Cultural Revolution.
“As the emphasis on Communist ideology and the personality cult emerging around President Xi gets stronger, the authorities will correspondingly act more strongly against all other ‘ideologies’ not fitting into this system, including the Christian religion.”
Xi Jinping: ‘Jesus Can’t Help You’
In November 2017, The Washington Post ran a chilling report (Nov. 14, 2017) from southeastern China: Thousands of villagers were told that Jesus can’t help them with illness or poverty, and only Xi Jinping can, so they should remove religious images and replace them with pictures of Xi.
Another report in the South China Morning Post quotes Qi Yan, chairman of the Huangjinbu people’s congress: “Many rural people are ignorant. They think God is their savior … After our cadres’ work, they’ll realize their mistakes and think: We should no longer rely on Jesus, but on the party for help.”
The increasing cult of personality around Xi (he’s even been referred to in the press as “Great Leader”–terminology not used since Mao Zedong’s rule) and the emphasis on poverty eradication by the Communist Party has led to China may positioning itself and its leaders against Christianity.
Praying With the Church in China
The church in China needs our prayers and encouragement to stand strong. Conversely, we can also learn from these stalwart Christians like Early Rain Covenant Church Pastor Wang Yi who are now risking their lives to stand up against what Yi called “the Chinese Communist Party’s persecution of the church, the deprivation of human faith and the freedom of conscience.”
God has given the global Body of Christ the privilege and responsibility to get on our knees and join in fervent prayer around the church in China.
Recently, one of our indigenous ministry partners who works to equip church leaders in China offered this insight: “The situation on the ground [in China] is always changing. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions about what China needs. Pray for wisdom for the leaders. Pray with us.” She shared specific prayer needs for church leaders and churches in China:
- Fortitude. Pray with Chinese Christians and church leaders for the fortitude to withstand increasing pressure and violent acts of persecution.
- Empowerment. Pray that God would empower His church in China to reach the next generation.
- Wisdom. Pray that leaders in China’s churches would have the wisdom to know how to handle the pressure they are coming under.
- Workers for the harvest. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send workers to plant and nurture seeds that will ultimately bring forth an abundance of Kingdom fruit.
- Protection. Pray that God will protect the rights and abilities of His people in China to worship Him.
- Supernatural intervention in the hearts of leaders. Pray that Xi Jinping and other Party officials will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and put their trust in Jesus.
- Courage for believers. Pray that given the choice between religious displays and poverty rations, believers will have wisdom and courage.
Above photo: Early Rain Covenant Church
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