LIFE IN EXILE
CHAPTER 7 Sacrificial Love
Denying Self & Taking Up the Cross Out of Love for the Lord
It was only by God’s miracle that I was released from the Labor Camp. Since I neither gave up my faith nor accepted Marxist-Lenin Atheism, I was actually not “reformed” and should therefore not have been released.
After my release from the Labor Camp, I should, of course, visit elderly Sister Dong, who was imprisoned for us, and should try my best to help her. However, each prisoner was allowed visit by the closest relative only once a month, and the time of the visit was fixed. Having learned that Sister Dong’s visitor was her elder sister, I packed up some of the things she would need and asked her sister to bring them along on her next prison visit. One month later when I revisited her sister, I was surprised to learn that Sister Dong had already been released from prison and that a sister, Mrs. Zhu, had received Sister Dong into her home. On hearing this, I was filled with joy, thanksgiving and praises for the Lord! Immediately, I went to the sister’s home to see Sister Dong. I was very excited to see her, and the first question I asked her was, “Aunt Dong, how did you feel when you were sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for our sake? Weren’t you regretful and upset?” To my surprise, she answered, “I’ve no regret at all. I told the Lord that I didn’t care how long the prison term was and that I was willing to even die in prison.” Oh, how precious an absolutely loyal heart for the Lord is! Today how few are those who sacrifice themselves for the love of the Lord and brothers-in-Christ! May the Lord have mercy on us! Originally sentenced to seven years in prison, Sister Dong was actually locked up in the Shanghai Tilan Bridge Prison for over eleven years! She said that other prisoners who had fulfilled their term all pressed for release from the prison1. As for her, she simply carried on with her prison life without pressing for release. Life in prison was not the same as in Labor Camps - it was very monotonous. Throughout the 365 days of the year, the women prisoners were mostly engaged in dull and boring jobs such as gluing matchboxes and recovering threads from discarded textiles to be used as cleaning rags by mechanics. As they were also required to attend political classes and meetings, they had little time left for personal activities.
Having lost all her possessions since her imprisonment, Sister Dong really experienced having the Lord as all of everything. Her original residence had been occupied and her clothes and furniture were all gone. As Paul said, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Phil. 3:8). Having been imprisoned for the Lord’s sake, Sister Dong, who remained celibate for the Lord, had nothing other than the few things she had brought with her to the jail. Thank God that on the day of Sister Dong’s release from prison, a sister Mrs. Zhu, offered to receive her! This was a very extraordinary hospitality at the time because people generally stayed away from “counter-revolutionaries” as if they were lepers, for fear of being labeled as “showing sympathy towards counter-revolutionary elements.” With the poor living condition in Shanghai at the time2, Sister Zhu’s home was already over-crowded with her husband, her daughter, son and daughter-in-law. In order to receive Sister Dong who had lost everything for the Lord, Sister Zhu managed to set aside a small space for her. Her hospitality for the ailing and elderly sister spanned over ten long years!
Dear brothers and sisters, have you ever received brothers and sisters? Have you received them for a week or two weeks? Receiving an elderly person means preparing her food, washing, mending and buying her clothes, taking her to the doctor when she is sick, attending to all her needs – the list goes on. The Bible tells us that love “suffers long” or, to be exact, “is long-suffering.” Sister Dong sacrificed herself for us and suffered for a long time; Sister Zhu who received her also suffered for 10 long years. To the world, they were “thefilth of the world and the offscouring of all things. (I Cor. 4:13)” In the eyes of the Lord, however, such people are extremely precious, and their lives and services will last throughout eternity.
The testimonies of these sisters led me to reflect on the present state of churches in general. Today there are quite a number of well-known ministers serving grand churches as well as huge congregations with gifts of eloquence and knowledge; yet how common are acts of internal strife and discord, as well as power struggle for personal gain? There are those who acted in an underhand manner, who are proud and boastful or dogmatic, who devised their own schemes and ways to mistreat brothers and sisters who disagree with them, who “developed” the church in a fashion that is worldly, carnal and self-centered. They do these without the fear of God and without committing themselves to the dealings and discipline of the Lord. How would they feel when they are faced with pure-hearted followers of Christ like the above-mentioned sisters?
When Jesus reappeared before His disciples after His resurrection from death, He asked Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” “Do you love Me?” “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17). Perhaps one day when we appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Lord will ask us, “Have you loved Me?” “In what ways have you loved Me?” Have we ever shed any tears for the Lord? Suffered for Him? If we haven’t, then we may be very poor when we see the Lord’s face. The Lord said to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire,” “white garments” and “eye salve” (Rev. 3:18). With a humble and God-fearing heart, let us ask ourselves if we have ever “bought.” Have we ever paid a price? Oh, many Christians are living so comfortably in the Free World that they are unwilling to take up the cross to follow the Lord or to suffer! Would we be like the rich man “clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day” who one day found himself in torments in Hades only to be reminded by Abraham, “Son, remember in your lifetime you received your good things” (Luke 16:19, 25). Everyone who desires to live in a godly way has his daily cross (II Tim. 3:12; Luke 9:23), even though it may not be heavy. We have the opportunities daily to deny and sacrifice ourselves; for instance, in every word we say and in whatever we do, whether we are in the United States, China, Taiwan, or elsewhere. His grace is sufficient for us, and His mercies “are new every morning (Lam. 3:23).” Our God of love and wisdom purifies and edifies us as He transforms us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29).
1. During those days in China, completion of prison term did not necessarily mean release from the prison; many who were released from prison were sent to Labor Camps for continued reform.
2. For over 30 years (1949-1979), there was basically no housing construction for the common people. Meantime, the population had increased two to three folds.