True Freedom for China


Someone asked us, “What surprised you about China?” That’s a hard question to answer because we hardly knew what to expect. Josh had told us on the phone, “There’s no way I can explain China to you. You’ve got to see it for yourself.” So we did, and we understand what he meant. China is an amazing place. We enjoyed our time in Beijing and we greatly enjoyed the Chinese people we met. We did not feel a single bit of anti-American feeling. To the contrary, the young people especially seem to love everything about America, from its sport stars to its music to its fashions to the growing economic prosperity in the major cities. China is a country in transition and no one can say what the end result will be. Downtown Beijing looks a great deal like any modern city anywhere. I think there are more McDonalds in downtown Beijing than in downtown Chicago. Ditto for KFC. Wal-Mart has already come to China. When you watch Chinese TV, many of the shows look and feel very Western. But consider this. In a city of 13 million people (millions more if you count the larger region), you can find almost no evidence of religion. During our visit, we didn’t see any church buildings at all. The guidebooks speak of a few historic church buildings, but they are few and far between. Imagine Chicago or Philadelphia or New Orleans or New York City with no churches at all. And imagine a society where religion is not discussed in public. Then imagine a society where you are not free to voice criticism of the government. In America we talk endlessly about politics and religion. As divided as America may be, at least we are free to voice our opinions. Last week I spoke with a Chinese man who may or may not be a Christian. For various reasons, you approach all discussion of “religion” very carefully. He told me that he believes “religion” is good for a nation because it provides a moral foundation. China needs that foundation, he said, and it does not have it today. “I have a Bible in Chinese and English and I read it,” he told me. “The State cannot tell you what to believe in your heart. And if the State says, ’Don’t go to church,’ you can have church in your home.” He folded his hands and touched his heart as he spoke those words. New cars, the latest music, the best of the West, and higher salaries can only take you so far. God has placed eternity inside every heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There is a “God-shaped vacuum” inside every person. Augustine gave us this oft-quoted prayer: “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” I pray that the day of true freedom in Christ will come soon for China.

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