Despite its best efforts, the outgoing Chinese Party leadership has not been able to create the “harmonious society” for which the advocated. If anything, China is riven by more abrasive conflicts, even at the very top, than when Hu Jintou assumed office ten years ago. If the findings of Socialist China, Capitalist China: Social tension and political adaptation under economic globalization (book review at globalchinacenter.org) are anywhere near accurate, then we can only expect rising tension at all levels and in all sectors of society. What can Christians do in such a situation? Can they make any significant contribution to peace and harmony when all around them is being ripped apart by greed, envy, anger, and the lust for power?
According to the Bible, as “salt and light,” believers in Christ can make a powerful impact on the community in which they live. Like a little bit of yeast, they can slowly and silently influence the entire “loaf” of the nation. But this will take a great deal of prayer, proclamation of the Gospel of peace, and practice of good deeds.
First and foremost, China’s Christians, and all Christians around the world, can pray for the new leaders of China, that God would give them wisdom and grace to grapple with the immense problems facing their vast nation, and that, somehow, they would find ways to bring about more justice and integrity, beginning at the center. We can also ask God to empower believers in Christ to live lives that exhibit humility, patience, meekness, and forbearance.
Second, Christians can actively work for peace. Their first duty is to maintain a “harmonious” relationship with God, by daily confession of sin, reliance on his forgiveness, and earnest efforts to become more loving by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then, they can take God’s love and extend it to those around them, forgiving as they have been forgiven; speaking the truth in love and forsaking all falsehood; giving generously of their surplus earnings to aid those in need; dealing daily with resentment and refusing to give vent to anger; and generally “walking in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us” (Ephesians 4:1-5:2).
What if followers of Christ did not imitate the world’s obsession with material wealth, pleasure, and sex? Would that not contribute to less conflict? Imagine what it would be like if all believers learned how to “give thanks for all things” rather than complaining? (See Ephesians 5:18). If wives submitted to their husbands, and husbands loved their wives as Christ loved the church, millions of marriages would not only be healed, but would also become models for others. If children obeyed their parents, and parents treated their children with dignity, not provoking their anger needlessly or discouraging them with heavy-handed demands and criticism, how much less deep-seated rage would be driving people throughout all levels of society?
Christians can teach workers to obey their bosses and to avoid dishonesty, while exhorting bosses to treat their workers fairly, thus preventing a great deal of labor unrest.
What about Christian involvement in politics? At this point, there isn’t much space for that in China, but at the very least, believers in Christ should be models, not of civil disobedience, but of civil obedience. Unnecessary confrontation by Christians with the government, however just their legal claims might be, will not promote harmony. On the contrary, it will feed the suspicion of leaders who consider Christianity a tool of foreign nations, especially America, that seek to de-stabilize China. There may be a place for Christian lawyers and others to work within the legal system to bring about greater justice, but they must do so without being implicated with foreign governments or anti-regime movements.
On the contrary, followers of the one who submitted to Pontius Pilate and wicked Jewish leaders, and spiritual descendants of the Apostles, who urged obedience to the worst emperor ever to rule Rome should surely be exemplary in their cooperation with officials, unless, of course, they are ordered to disobey a clear command of God. Such instances will ordinarily be quite rare, however, possibly much rarer than some who are now pushing the limits of official tolerance may think.
Most, of all, it seems to me that if Christians could learn love God above all; set their hopes fully on the grace to be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ; cast their cares on God in prayer, thanking him for causing all things to work together for him and thus experiencing the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding” – would shine like lights in a dark world and exude a profound tranquility, compassion, and peace that would bring at least some relief to all those whom they meet.