Christianity Strives Under Adversaries in China
Throughout history, there were abundant examples of how Christianity strove against persecution and adversaries, for example, the persecutions of the early apostles led to the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles. On the other hand, aggressions by the Christians, often led to opposite effects. The Christian crusades of the 11th century and the invasion of China in the 19th century were two examples. So-called adversaries lead to the suffering of those who preach the gospel. Suffering seems to be a main theme in Christianity at least for the first coming of Christ. He came to suffer for our sins, instead of winning the war against His opposition with brute force (what the Jews wanted to see). As a matter of fact, the entire Gospel of Mark, stresses the theme of Christ's suffering. All great men of God share two common elements in their lives: suffering and a love of the contemplation of God's attributes and works (ref. 1). Let's examine at the role of suffering in the history of Chinese Christianity.
1) The Three Early Missionaries-
During the early missionaries to China in the Tang and Yuan Dynasties, the gospel was generally preached to the kings and the high-ranking officials, instead of her people. Of course it is far easier to preach to the upper classes and the administration. For one thing, these people were more civilized and they were hungry for Western knowledge. Western technology, astronomy, and geography attracted many open-minded scholars. Unfortunately, this kind of friendly exchange of knowledge, which lacks the display of faith through witnessing, failed to convert Chinese. Jesus did not try to influence the Jewish leaders, but instead, he mingled with the people, served them and suffered for our sins. The early Chinese missionaries like Mateo Ricci, were officials in the palace. Though there is no question about their faith, in leaving their homeland to preach to the Chinese, the lack of suffering in their ministries failed to move the general public who couldn't relate to this foreign religion shared by the officials and the rich.
2) The Fourth Mission (1800-1920)
Although the missionaries did reach the people this time, the conducts of some of the missionaries led to unthinkable Anti-Christian Movement, which lasted up to the 1900's. If the missionaries had not participated in their mother countries' invasion of China nor have they joined the opium trading company, but instead suffered (Phil 1:13, 29, 30, 2Cor 4:8-15, 6:4-10, 11:23-28, 12:9,10) with the Chinese during the tough time, the outcome would have been very different.
3) Political Struggle in China Between the Guo Ming Dang and Communist Chinese
After the Anti-Christian movement, the Christians found themselves affiliated with the Guo Ming Dang for they were more sympathetic towards the Christians, with many officials sharing the same religion. With the Guo Ming Dang losing power to the Communist and driven out of the country in 1949, Christianity came under severe oppression, with the arrest of major leaders like Watchman Nee, and Wang Mingdao.
Both Christianity and Communism were ideas of the West. It is interesting why the Chinese adopted Communism but not Christianity. It is possible that the Chinese at the time identified themselves with the suffering of the poor (who mostly supported the Communists) and rejected the corrupted Guo Ming Dang (mostly rich people, including quite a few Christians) and the oppression of the foreigners (whom they related to missionaries). The choice was quite clear why the Chinese picked Communism.
From the history of Christianity in China, we learn that Christianity does strive against adversaries. Suffering (Phil 1:13, 29, 30, 2Cor 4:8-15, 6:4-10, 11:23-28, 12:9,10) brings out the faith of Christians, which in turn convert nonbelivers to belivers. That's why, it's important for the missionaries to serve the people (suffer with them if necessary), setting a good example, and winning over the trust and faith of the Chinese. The early missionaries during the Tang and the Yuan Dynasties lacked the spirit of suffering. The missionaries in the 19th century, not only did not win the hearts of the people, their participation in politics turned the Chinese away from their Gospel. During 120 years of preaching (from 1800 to 1920), there were only about 366,500 conversions in China. After the Communist took over China, the oppression suffered by the Chinese Christians helped them to strengthen their faith and strove. An unofficial survey shows that within 50 years under the Communist's government, the Christian population grew to more than 30,000,000. Chinese Christianity has indeed been striving under adversaries and sufferings. God bless China!
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