August 30, 2016
Keep Calm...and Leave Room for God's Wrath
Post by Brittany Tedesco
She stunk. I mean, she reeked. During the Cultural Revolution in China, Dorothy Sun was falsely accused and forced to work in a labor camp. . .for 20 years. One of her main assignments was hauling wheelbarrow loads of manure for the communists' collective farms. The smell lingered long after she left the fields for the day. It permeated her hair and clothing.
Her father, a well-known Christian leader in his community, was accused of being an American spy. Like her father, Dorothy refused to renounce her faith in Christ. So, like her father, she was wrongfully imprisoned.
The manure assignment was just one more humiliation she had to endure—one more injustice, one more outrage. She couldn't understand why God would do this to her.
The prison guards were cruel. Not only were they physically abusive, they tried to break people's spirits. They stood over the women, yelling, cursing, and berating. They raped many of them. . .but not Dorothy. Not the smelly manure-hauling woman. Oh, they would stand in front of her and yell and scream, but they weren't about to go any further.
Dorothy Sun has been our China Director for the last few decades. In last week's staff meeting, she told us how she would silently stand in front of the guards during their tirades—sometimes with a little smile on her face. "But inside I was praying, 'Lord, beat them up!'" she said.
God beat them up alright—in His own way. Many of the prisoners were beautiful, young women. . .who used to work as prostitutes. And many of the guards who raped them contracted sexually transmitted diseases and committed suicide.
"'No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,' declares the Lord" (Isaiah 54:17 NIV).
This is tremendous promise. Do we really believe it? Or do we think we have to take matters into our own hands?
Do we act like victims of our circumstances or do we trust that nothing, and no one, is able to touch us unless God permits it?
We sing a praise song at my church called "Greater Is He." It starts out like this: "Death cannot conquer me or stand against my family. And though there may be an enemy, greater is He that is in me. The weight of sin was my disease, but Jesus bore the stripes for me. And though there may be suffering, greater is He that is in me."
The tune is catchy and it gets stuck in my head—which is a really great thing because it constantly reminds that Jesus Christ, who lives in me, is greater than anything or anyone I have or ever will face. No circumstance, no matter how bleak it might look, will ever defeat me. Because of Him, I will have the ultimate victory.
A ministry that Christian Aid Mission assists in South Asia recently sent us a beautiful account that they entitled "Persecutor Baptized by Persecuted." It was the testimony of one of their church-planting native missionaries, whom I will call Amit*. When Amit became a Christian, his parents ordered him to leave their village. With ax in hand, his father threatened to kill him if he wouldn't renounce his faith in Jesus Christ.
Amit fled. He eventually moved into a house in a different village inhabited by other believers. In 2008, his house, along with the homes of his neighbors, was burned to the ground by radical Hindus intent on persecuting Christians.
Suddenly homeless, Amit decided to approach his uncle for shelter. The only way he'd get shelter, his uncle told him, was to return to his former belief system and forget about Jesus Christ.
And so, Amit returned to the charred remains of his house. He made himself a small shelter with random materials. A polythene sheet acted as his roof. All of the other believers had left. He stayed and prayed for his family.
Seeing his faith, Amit's uncle became convinced that Jesus Christ is the true, living God. He humbly approached Amit and asked to be baptized. In April, Amit baptized his uncle—in a water reservoir far from his uncle's home.
The ministry with which Amit now works is trying to provide help to his uncle, who lives on a meager government pension of less than $5 a month and takes care of his disabled 25-year-old son with polio. They hope to provide him with a small income-generating project.
Amit's uncle, just like the prison guards in communist China, persecuted a child of God. But his story ends very differently than theirs did. God redeemed Amit's uncle's life, and is blessing him through the indigenous ministry we help. God punished the prison guards, who remained unrepentant until their untimely deaths at their own hands.
So what's the moral of the story? Simply this: we can't know the hearts of our enemies. We do not possess the ability to determine who God might choose to redeem and who He might choose to punish. That is His job, not ours. We finite creatures do well to remain silent in the face of our accusers, like Dorothy, like Amit, and like Jesus Christ. Then we can stand back and watch God work.
"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:19-21 NIV).
*Names changed for security purposes