Persecution Is Easier Than A Bad Marriage
This Chinese Christ follower told me that if he returns to China, the Chinese authorities will kill him. These officials feel threatened by his Christian life and biblical message. So significant is this man, as a symbol of religious freedom, that President Bush met with him privately prior to visiting China for the Olympics.
Having been part of the underground church in China, this Chinese Christian experienced incredible persecution to the point that he and his family fled China. By God's grace, as refugees, they were able to locate in Texas. But he can never return to China. In fact, he cannot visit other countries in Asia like Thailand because the communist network powerfully infiltrates the culture, so much so that they would kidnap him and return him to China to execute him. This happened to a friend of his.
As I sat with this Christian gentleman, he pointed to another Chinese believer across the room. He said, "Last year that man, who still lives in China and practices law, was kidnapped. They took him to an undisclosed spot and tortured him for six hours with electrical shocks, then dumped him in a public spot in his underwear to humiliate him. The authorities intended to create fear not only in him but in his wife and family, and other Christians promoting religious freedom."
Interestingly, Sarah and I recognized that man from the day before because he wanted us to sign our Love and Respect book. Like a little boy in a candy store, he gleefully awaited our signature, having received the book as our gift. He said nothing to us about his torture. Instead, he looked forward to the impact of the Love and Respect message on marriages in China.
I point this out because this Chinese Christian leader -- the one who cannot return to China -- shocked me when he said, "Such persecution from communist authorities comes and goes, and we get used to it to a certain degree. But a bad marriage with our wives weighs us down and defeats us more than persecution. We can handle persecution but we cannot handle a bad marriage. A bad marriage devastates us. We need your help."
This leader met with Sarah and me to appeal to us to help them serve the marriages among the Chinese Christians in the house church movement. More than religious freedom issues, about which he and President Bush talked, this Christian leader felt that the most critical matter revolved around the marriages of the Christian couples. Defeat would not come to them from persecution but from a bad marriage.
He himself nearly sunk. He pointed out that when he first came to the United States, he remained in contact with the Christians in China. The needs in China overwhelmed him. Phone calls came to him 24/7. For example, he relayed that one man called him, appealing for his help, while the police were breaking down the front door. In the middle of the conversation, the police entered and grabbed this man and dragged him away. The phone went dead. These kinds of episodes and needs stretched him to the limit, almost spiritually suffocating him. In addition, his father, father-in-law, and mother-in-law lived with him in a two-bedroom home, along with his wife and three children. In the midst of all of these draining pressures, pressures he could endure, the thing that he could not endure was his bad marriage. He could handle everything else, but he could not handle the conflict with his wife. At a certain juncture, he felt he had to make a decision. He had to choose his wife or his ministry. He could not survive both. Ironically, he could handle that China had spies in the United States of America poised to kill him if necessary. In fact, he learned that an American Caucasian conspired with the Chinese government to come after him --an American of all people! Living with these threats proved easier than living with a wife who judged and condemned him more than the Chinese government. He wanted to call it quits to his marriage.
What happened? His wife read the book Love and Respect. Their marriage turned around. The hope and peace that entered their marriage put them on a new course. Experiencing a new energy in their relationship, gave them new strength to minister to the persecuted community in China. Thus, he contacted Sarah and me to propose the idea of training Chinese Christian leaders with the Love and Respect curriculum. As important as religious freedom remains for the Christian community in China -- freedom from persecution -- the greater need revolves around the Christian marriages. Why? When a husband and wife experience Love and Respect in the marriage, not only can they survive persecution they can effectively minister as a couple to the other believers. Love and Respect, in Ephesians 5:33, when followed strengthens, satisfies, and sustains. This persecuted believer ought to know.