Tuesday, August 05, 2008

4 Minute Devotions: Beijing Boycott

The Olympic Games in China are about to begin, but I cannot watch any of them. China is still persecuting and imprisoning Christians, even in the city of Beijing itself.

Podcast version here

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

It’s almost time for the Olympic Games to begin and it will soon seem as though the whole world is standing still. Athletes from many nations will be traveling to Beijing to compete in the Games. They will proudly carry their nations’ flags at the opening ceremonies and do their utmost to win medals for their countries. All of them will pursue the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, and Stronger” to attain their personal bests, so that they can go home, proud of their attempts and achievements.

As much as I have loved to watch the Olympic Games in the past, this year I cannot bring myself to do it. As a teenager, I loved participating in athletic events and was even a member of the High School sprint team. Throughout the years, I have been enthralled by the speed, skills, and success of modern athletes. This year, however, I cannot enjoy any of their performances.

My heart is heavy because the Olympics are being held in a nation that still arrests Christians and puts pastors in jail. As recent as Sunday May 25, Chinese police authorities in Beijing raided the Beijing Gospel church and disrupted worship. The pastor was arrested and interrogated; he was eventually released but is still under surveillance.

This happens every week, all over China. When the Olympic Committee chose Beijing as the site for the 2008 Games, they were assured that China would clean up its Human Rights and stop religious persecution. They never kept that promise, and so I will not be watching the Games. Instead, I will take time to pray for a young woman called Li Ying. She was arrested for producing and distributing a Christian newsletter in 2001, when China was awarded the Games. She is still in prison and will not be released until 2016.

As the world’s athletes run toward the finishing tape to secure their gold, silver, and bronze medals, be aware that just a few miles away from the sporting events, Christians are being harassed, persecuted, and imprisoned. They are running the real race that matters and their prize is a crown in Christ’s Kingdom. The Olympics are a world-wide, short-lived delusion. Winning souls for Christ and running for His Team are the eternal goals that we should be accomplishing. China may imprison Christians for years, but Christ keeps the persecuted free for all of eternity.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we get so caught up with the world’s dreams that we sometimes forget the vision You have for the entire earth. Afflict our hearts and minds so that we will remember those poor souls that are languishing in prison in Beijing and throughout China just for believing in You. Shame us into remembering the cost of being Christians and help us to pray for those who are imprisoned just for praying, preaching, and practicing their Christianity. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to pastor@erinpresbyterian.org.


TheoStudent said...

Let me get this straight. You "can't watch the olympics because Christians are being persecuted in Bejing." So how do you wake up every single morning and survive another day on this earth? People EVERYWHERE are being persecuted, raped and murdered. The burning question is "What would Jesus do?" I think he would get a backbone, suck it up, and go cheer for his country. Get over it. I don't know if you realize it, but the theme of your blog is so tainted with delusions of persecution that you've lost the entire thread of what Christ came to teach us. I am a student at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. And I have to say, your blog has given me a window into the way I don't want to end up when I eventually have my own congregation. Judging by the way you seem to know everything, I doubt that the comments from me as a newbie pastor will hold any weight, but I thought I would contribute on the off chance that you have even a shred of respect for other people's thoughts and opinions.

Stushie said...

I feel sorry for whatever congregation you may ever be called to lead. If you're an example of Fuller, then the seminary has failed.

I pray for Li Ying each day because she was arrested for distributing a church newsletter. Perhaps when you're writing a monthly column for your own church, you my give her some thought.