There has been a disturbing movement by the Chinese communist government, especially in the province of Zhejiang, to remove crosses from church buildings. At least 1,200 Chinese churches have had the symbol of their faith forcibly removed.
The believers in China have engaged in peaceful protests, yet according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, more than 100 people were detained or arrested, and 38 people beaten in connection with cross removals in 2014.
For over a month, nearly two dozen church members camped out on the roof of their church building in Huzhou in a last ditch attempt to prevent the removal of their cross. This is in a district that has seen hundreds of cross removals and church demolitions since late 2013 as part of what academics see as a deliberate campaign to slow Christianity’s spread.
The protests proved to be in vain as the churchgoers were ordered from the building by officials, according to Reuters. The following day, worshipers wept as a crane was used to bring down the Cross.
This happened earlier this month. Other churches were bulldozed. One pastor, Huang Yizi, was jailed for a year after he publicly opposed the cross removals.
This week, the Global Times, a state run newspaper, warned Chinese Christians not to“use the foreign media to pile pressure on the government” over the cross removals.
“The cross was up there all this while and did not affect them at all,” Pan Yingjue, one of the protestors, was quoted as saying. “Why did they have to touch it?”
That’s a good question. The official response, made last month by a government official, is that the cross removals were “for the sake of safety and beauty”.
Why is the cross such a powerful symbol? Well, for one thing, it symbolizes that government does not have absolute power, something that apparently some people in government can’t handle. For another, it symbolizes the greatest power of all, the power of sacrificial love.
This is real power.
Edward Bennet Williams was an influential Washington D.C. trial attorney who founded a prestigious law firm and owned several professional sports teams. As he was dying, someone was teasing him about all the power and influence he had in Washington. And he said, “Power? I’m about to meet real power.”
We should pray for our sisters and brothers in China. As a response to the dismantling of their sacred symbol, Chinese believers are making small wooden crosses, painting them red, and displaying them in their homes and on their vehicles. Their story is a reminder that the cross of Jesus is not merely a powerful symbol, but behind it rests the most powerful force in the universe.
This is why our Crosswalk mission statement says in part, that we are a community passionately demonstrating the love of Jesus by… choosing sacrifice.
How can you choose sacrifice this week?