May 6, 2014
For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16
Because of Martin Luther's brave declaration made at his trial before the heads of church and state, Lutherans have always had a tender place in their hearts for any Christian whose conviction moves him to confess, "Here I stand."
With that being so, please consider the Chinese city of Wenzhou and its newly constructed Sanjiang Church. A month or so ago, the local Chinese authorities stated the church had been built illegally, was structurally dangerous, and had been condemned. A few days later believers of Wenzhou were shocked to see their church had been defaced by words written in red paint.
Those words read, "Demolish" and "Illegal construction."
Now some Christian communities might wring their hands and say, "Woe is me." Others might sigh and sorrowfully observe, "You can't beat city hall." Yes, that is what some might do, but there aren't many believers like that in the Chinese community of Wenzhou.
No, those faithful folk took a "Here I stand" kind of attitude and told their political leaders, "You'll tear down this church over my dead body." That's what they said, and they meant it. Without prompting, thousands of believers came together and put their bodies between their church and any bulldozers, which the authorities might be tempted to bring in.
It didn't take too long before the Christians who had responded emotionally got themselves organized. Soon a round-the-clock protest was mounted. Kitchens were set up to feed the volunteers who ringed the building. Old men and women spent their nights sleeping on church pews. This they did to fend off any night demolition, which might be ordered by the authorities.
Jingliu, one of those ladies who has been sleeping at the church, spoke for many others when she said, "There are bad people out there trying to damage our church, so we must defend it."
That faithful attitude and courageous commitment may help explain why it has been estimated that in 15 years China will have more believers than any other country in the world. Conversely, the lack of a courageous "Here I stand" attitude may also offer some insight into why church attendance and membership figures are falling in Europe and our own hemisphere.
This is just an encouragement to take the Savior seriously when He says, "Everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge before My Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies Me before men, I also will deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32-33).
Maybe it's time for all believers to ask for a "Here I stand" kind of faith.
THE PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Jesus' only goal in life was to win salvation for sinners. His faithfulness went unapplauded and unappreciated by the powers of church and state. May we who are recipients of His sacrifice be faithful and committed to Him. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries