Tuesday, August 18, 2009

China and US to Align Against Terrorism?

The following is from Kairos Journal:

“Uncle”: The Tremendous Testimony of Li Tianen

Is it possible that China and the United States may soon align themselves together in the global economy and the struggle with international terrorism? According to David Aikman, former Time Beijing bureau chief, the astonishing answer might be “yes.” In October 2003, the veteran journalist published Jesus in Beijing,1 a book that suggests that China’s future is being shaped by a resurgent Christianity. How is this possible when the Church under Communist rule has suffered such terrible persecution? Aikman writes that through the courage of patriarchs known among the Chinese Christians as “uncles,” God is once again showing His power to protect His people and change a nation.

One such “uncle” is Li Tianen. Sentenced to ten years in prison for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, Tianen spent his days in a Chinese prison camp digging and moving iron ore. Once when Li had fallen some thirty feet to an apparent death, the camp physician ordered a grave for the Christian pastor, since the patient had no pulse and was not breathing for ninety minutes.

Suddenly, the “dead man” opened his eyes. “I am Li Tianen,” the inmate confessed. “Do you believe in God?” queried the doctor. “Yes, I do.” “I believe in God now,” the physician rejoined.2

It would not be the only time the Lord preserved His servant’s life during Tianen’s prison stay that had begun in 1960. Communist officials ordered the preacher not to pray, and assigned other inmates the task of reporting whether or not Li moved his lips. If discovered, “he was forced to stand against a wall, sometimes in winter, without a shirt, for up to six hours, with his arms and feet splayed out.” Still, “during these punishment sessions,” writes Aikman, Tianen said “he never felt the cold.”3

After his release from prison in 1970, Tianen went back to his ministry, and helped the growing House Church movement in the Henan Province. Only five years later, however, Fang Tiancai, secretary of the Nanyang City Communist Party gave Tianen a death sentence, during a time when supporters of Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s wife, imprisoned thousands of Christians. But the persecutor who sought to kill Li soon saw the tables turned as Jiang Qing’s sycophants themselves suffered a backlash. Fang found himself in prison—sharing a cell with Li Tianen. Aikman describes the scene:

“Are you Li Tianen?” Fang asked, kneeling down and trembling upon arrival in the cell. Li said he was. “God in Heaven, you are an awesome power!” Fang exclaimed . . . “I was ready to execute you three times, but the Jesus you believe in protected you. Marx was not able to save me. Now I believe the Gospel you believe in is real . . .

“Your sins are great,” Li replied, “but God’s grace is greater.”4

Miraculously freed yet again, Li Tianen poured his life into the surging congregations in central China. The commitment to build Christ’s Church despite such persecution has produced an ironic change of events: Christianity is sweeping through Chinese culture so rapidly that the implications for China’s political, economic, and religious future are, God willing, breathtaking. David Aikman concludes his book with the hope that one day the “moment may occur when the Chinese dragon is tamed by the Christian lamb.”5

Tertullian once famously remarked that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The maxim has been proven true ever since Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution threatened to eliminate a vibrant gospel witness in China. But Mao failed. Despite his best efforts, the Chinese Church brims with earth-altering promise because fearless men like Li Tianen and countless other like him willingly paid the price of following Jesus despite having counted the cost.


1 The foregoing account is summarized from David Aikman, Jesus in Beijing (Washington: Regnery, 2003), 67-71.
2 Italics added for emphasis. Ibid., 68-69.
3 Ibid., 68.
4 Ibid., 70.
5 Ibid., 292

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