Public Beating and Humiliation During the Chinese Cultural Revolution which was Initiated by Mao in 1966
Ron Boyd-MacMillan of Open Doors shares the following insight from his teaching, “Why I Need to Encounter the Persecuted Church” (www.opendoorsusa.org)
Christian testimonies on the whole tend to be dominated by those who experienced wonderful deliverances: deliverances of healing, from cancer or other life threatening diseases, or deliverances from debt, or romance-less marriages. Even when it comes to reporting on the persecuted, we read of Chinese house church leaders released from the grip of a deadly fever, or border guards with eyes miraculously blinded to the Bibles sitting in plain view on the back seat.
Yet it has to be said that deliverance stories—though they tend to grab the headlines—are not the norm. A dear old Christian in Beijing used to say to me, “Remember, for every deliverance story you hear, there are a hundred endurance stories.” He was right. The story of the persecuted is primarily one of endurance.
I never saw this principle better illustrated than in the story of an old Chinese woman known throughout the world as “Auntie Mabel.” A doctor in Beijing, she was well known for her bright Christian witness. She never married in order to look after a sick brother. Her family was wealthy. They lived in a large house in central Beijing. All that changed abruptly in 1949. Her large house marked her out as one of the landlord class. She was evicted from her house and forced to live in a garden shed, with just a stove, two deck chairs and an old bed.
In the 1960’s, the Red Guards—teenagers who were given power to direct the Cultural Revolution—began to visit her, beating her up, parading her in the streets, and forcing her to wear a placard with her crimes written on them. So thorough were the Red Guards that they erected a large sign outside her house declaring her a pariah because she had distributed “imperialistic literature.” Mabel was shunned by neighbors, victimized daily by her work gang, and regularly beaten by Red Guards.
Years later, she knew why she endured all this. In the early eighties, after Mao died, Mabel began to receive a stream of visitors saying, “During the Cultural Revolution, there was a large sign outside your house full of your crimes. One of them was that you had distributed Bibles. So I’m here on the chance that you have some left.”
Amazingly that sign which made her life such a misery became the means of a new ministry. It kept people away from her during the Cultural Revolution, but afterwards, after she had endured, it drew them. A number of high-ranking members of the Communist Party in China today owe their faith to her endurance.
She reflected, “It’s been nice to know why. It helps my faith. But it was hard. Every day was hard. I can’t say I saw Jesus, or even felt him close most of the time. I just got the strength to keep going, and that was enough.”
God can deliver us by transforming a situation, but more often He delivers by giving us the strength to endure the situation. That way, others are transformed as well as ourselves.
“Our God is so great even the persecutors serve him,” said a Chinese pastor. He was referring to arch-persecutor of the Chinese church, Mao Tse Tung, who launched the fiercest anti-Christian campaign of the 20th century in the 1960’s. Called the “Cultural Revolution,” he swept away all churches, burned all Bibles, and imprisoned all the pastors. Yet all he succeeded in doing was pushing the church deep underground, where it became embedded in the family structure and Chinese culture in a way 300 years of evangelism had failed to accomplish. From this fire emerged the world’s largest revival – where the church grew from 1 million in 1950 to over 80 million today. “We say,” smiled the pastor, “that thanks to Mao—who thought he was annihilating the church—we have the greatest revival. He thought he was killing the church, but all the while he was doing pre-evangelism. God had the last laugh. Glory be to God!”
II Timothy 2:10-12a — I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him.
I Peter 2:20b-21 — If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.
Revelation 14:12 — This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
Romans 15:4 — For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
Almighty God, Lord of the storm and of the calm, of day and night, of life and death; grant unto us so to have our hearts stayed upon your faithfulness and your love, so that whatever happens to us, however black the cloud or dark the night, with quiet faith we may trust in you and walk with you; abiding all storms and troubles of this mortal life, begging of you that they may turn to our souls’ true good. Amen.
–George Dawson (1821-1876) English Baptist minister