NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, January 1st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Happy New Year to you, Nick.
EICHER: Yes, Happy New Year to you!
It so happens that the first Tuesday of the month falls on New Year’s Day, and so today’s the day for our Classic Book of the Month. So in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, maybe it’s to read better this year.
REICHARD: Yes! That’s a good one, and Emily Whitten is here to help us out. Good morning, Emily!
EMILY WHITTEN, BOOK REVIEWER: Hey, Mary, Happy New Year!
REICHARD: Happy New Year to you, too! What do you have for us today?
WHITTEN: Well, I thought we could start this segment with a news flash. Sort of a “We interrupt your regularly scheduled program…” Hold on just a sec…
100 Christians detained in China CNN: What we know this morning is that Wang Yi, a very high profile pastor as you mentioned, he’s been in the Oval office, he’s a former legal scholar. He along with his wife Jian Rong and 100 Christians were detained early last week in the Chinese city of Chengdu….
WHITTEN: That’s CNN correspondent, Will Ripley, from mid-December. And he’s talking about Early Rain Covenant Church and the crackdown on religious freedom in China.
REICHARD: Ah, yes. I spoke with June Cheng, our East Asia correspondent, not too long ago on that very topic. What a heartbreaking situation.
WHITTEN: I agree, and in fact, for that reason, today I bent the rules a wee bit to recommend a work by the pastor of that church, Wang Yi. Today’s recommendation isn’t a book or a classic—at least, not yet. But it’s well worth your time. I’m talking about Wang Yi’s piece entitled “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience.” In about four typed pages, Pastor Wang Yi explains why he chose to disobey the Chinese government and live out his Christian faith openly despite persecution.
REICHARD: I’ve heard that people are at their most eloquent when passionate about something. That’s seems true here.
WHITTEN: Yeah, I think so. Like Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Wang Yi grapples with enduring questions. Questions like, What is the purpose of human life? And how does man’s law relate to God’s law? Unlike secular classics, Wang Yi’s robust understanding of God’s love and our hope in the gospel really stands out.
REICHARD: How so? Elaborate on that.
WHITTEN: Sure. I actually spoke to June Cheng as well recently and she was kind enough to give me some background. While Wang Yi initially wrote this declaration last September and made some edits in October, he’s been thinking about these issues a long time. Wang Yi wrestled with Christian ideas as a professor and a human rights lawyer for years before he found saving faith. Here’s June:
CHENG: He has a lot of friends within the intellectual community. In that human rights community. A lot of them have been captured, a lot of them have been imprisoned. A lot exiled. Some have died. So I think he’s always been very aware of persecution and the fact that he would one day face persecution….
WHITTEN: And interestingly enough, Wang Yi’s wife actually became a Christian before him, and she hosted a Bible study in their home. That’s when God finally opened Wang Yi’s heart to the gospel.
CHENG: Once he was able to see the depth of his own depravity, then recognizing that he needed a savior. It wasn’t just these people who had been dealt with unjustly who needed someone to save them. But he needed it himself because he was a sinner. And I think it was that kind of a humbling experience that God gave him that allowed him to see that it’s not about him trying to change the systems of China but it’s about submitting to Christ in all aspects of his life.
REICHARD: Well, getting to know the Almighty God can be a “humbling experience,” can’t it?
WHITTEN: For sure. I see humility as a major theme throughout Wang Yi’s declaration. He mentions his joyful submission to Chinese authorities–authorities set over him by God. But of course, godly humility doesn’t require blind obedience to wicked rulers. Instead, Pastor Wang Yi recommends “faithful disobedience.”
REICHARD: Hmm. You know, that almost sounds like an oxymoron. When my kids were little, I would not have characterized their misbehavior as faithful in any way. So what does Pastor Wang Yi mean by “faithful disobedience”?
WHITTEN: For one thing, it means you don’t join authoritarian, state-approved churches. Wang Yi believed churches in the Three Self Movement allowed by the Chinese government weren’t true churches … so he steered clear of those. Another thing “faithful disobedience” meant to him: You can’t just hide underground either. Here’s June again:
CHENG: He didn’t think that the church could be a good witness if no one knew that they were there. And so in a lot of situations, the church was so underground and secretive that when the government would crack down on them, and say, this is a cult or something bad for society, other non-Christians would just believe them because they don’t know what the church is doing. Maybe it is just a cult and maybe they are doing bad things. So his purpose also is to show the rest of the world this is what a church does and we’re helping people, we’re making things better.
WHITTEN: You see the word testify repeatedly in Wang Yi’s declaration. He knows that his disobedience puts his life in danger. But he lays his life down that others—even wicked authorities—may see Christ. He writes, “I firmly believe that Christ has called me to carry out this faithful disobedience through a life of service, under this regime that opposes the gospel and persecutes the church. This is the means by which I preach the gospel….”
REICHARD: Wow. Greater love has no man than this.
WHITTEN: Indeed. As we hear reports of church members continuing to gather for worship, witnessing to police, even giving them Bibles—his friends seem to have taken his message to heart.
REICHARD: Something we can take to heart, too. Thanks for the recommendation today, Emily.
WHITTEN: You’re very welcome.
REICHARD: Our classic selection for this month is “My Declaration of Faithful Disobedience” by Pastor Wang Yi.
Check out Emily’s Twitter feed, @emilyawhitten.
You can also keep up with June Cheng on Twitter @JuneCheng_World.