Last week I caught part of the opening ceremony of the Olympics, reportedly planned and rehearsed for 5 years, and costing $300 million to stage.
It featured 15,000 Chinese performers. 33,866 fireworks were fired off – almost as many as our local Indiana County Fair on July 4th. It was probably the largest and most expensive show ever produced. Especially cool was the performance of 2000 drummers in playing in perfect synchronization. Obviously, China wanted to impress.
But China’s government is not impressive.
“They hung me up across an iron gate, then they yanked open the gate and my whole body lifted until my chest nearly split in two. I hung like that for four hours.”
This is how Peter Xu Yongze (age 61), describes how he was treated during one of five jail sentences in China because of his belief in Christ. Christians are not allowed to evangelize in China, and it’s against the law to worship in any group or home outside state sanctioned churches. To do so is to risk fines, imprisonment, torture and even death.
While he was in prison, one of the jailers told Mr. Xu the only way to avoid breaking the law would be if he prayed under the covers in bed.
“A believer was praying, so a jailer made other prisoners lift him up to the ceiling and drop him to the ground many times until he died,” Mr. Xu said. (BBC News, Nov 9, 2004)
House church leader Zhou Heng, who manages a state registered bookstore, was arrested on Aug. 31, 2007, for receiving 3 tons of Bibles that had been donated by South Korean churches and intended for free distribution to local Christians. The government only allows state churches to print and distribute a limited number of Bibles yearly. It is reported that in prison Zhou was beaten severely by both guards and inmates. He was still in prison as of this past February. (The Christian Post, Feb.7, 2008)
The Lord who spoke the worlds into existence is not impressed by our pomp and technology and fireworks. But he is impressed by his people glorifying him despite persecution by a wicked government. His eyes are on his precious sheep singing his praises behind closed doors of their homes or praying under their prison covers.
When you watch the Olympics this week, lift up a prayer for the persecuted saints in China. Ask Jesus to have mercy on them, fill them with his joy and give them the grace to persevere. Ask Jesus to bring his kingdom, the most impressive kingdom of all, to earth.
photo by Denis Collette