"Reversal of Unjust Verdict"
I have earlier recounted (in Chapter 12) how God led me out of the Labor Camp in 1979, re-established my residency in Shanghai on December 3, and made me a university English teacher. Every year since my return to Shanghai, overseas brothers and sisters who came to visit me expressed their hope for me to visit churches in the United States or Australia. I told them that, even though life was tough in China, I had not received any indication from the Lord to leave the country; besides, even if life were tougher, I had no desire to leave.
At the time, even though I was teaching English to university students bound for overseas training, my monthly salary was only 30 yuan, which was even lower than that of a middle-school graduate - for comparison, a mason earned 32 yuan and an odd-job worker earned 36 yuan. This was because I was a so-called "labor-reform released element" the highest salary of which was pre-set by the Reform-through-Labor Bureau. My salary prior to labor-reform was around 83 yuan; now, 21 years later, it had dropped to only 30 yuan. I remember when I first received the 30-yuan salary from the East China Central University, I grieved as I looked at the few monetary notes in my hand. Even so, I bowed in worship, "Lord, this is the amount You've set for me, and I worship you." Our Lord is the Lord of heavens and earth. He was rich but became poor for our sake, so that we may become rich through His poverty (II Cor. 8:9). Even when hungry and tired from walking, He had no place to lay His head - though foxes have dens and birds have nests.
Thank God that even the university authority considered I was under-paid (30 yuan) and attempted to raise my salary. Despite their effort, it was only slightly increased owing to my previous labor reform. In view of this and the fact that it seemed inappropriate for a "labor-reform released element" to teach students bound for overseas training, the university authority took steps to revoke my former "unjust verdict." The term "reversal of unjust verdict" may be strange to many brothers and sisters. What it means is: the Communist government admitted their past mistake in sending you to the Labor Camp for reform and therefore wiped out any unfavorable past record.
One day I was notified for an interview with the authority concerned. Riding a bicycle on my way to the interview, I prayed, "Be with me, Lord! Give me the wisdom to know what to say in response to the interviewers' questions. In my replies, please help me not to fall short of Your glory but to bless Your holy name." (Matt. 10:19-20; Luke 12:11).
During the interview, I was asked two questions by three government officers. "Now, after more than 20 years of reform, what do you know about Watchman Nee, the chief criminal of the counter-revolutionary gang?" "I've no new comments," I replied. "I've no idea whether or not he has political problems as I've no political relationship with him." They pressed on, "What about in terms of his moral and life principles?" "I'm no witness of his moral and life principles; but if the government has enough evidence to justify the sentencing of a Christian to labor reform or imprisonment, I've nothing to say to that. This is because our God is a righteous God who also personally disciplines His own children." Then, they asked, "You were sent to labor reform for objecting to the ??Three-Self Renovation Movement'18; what's your attitude now?" I replied, "I strongly objected to participating in the ??Three-Self Renovation Movement' because it interfered with my faith. At that time, we were ordered to preach in accordance with the ridiculous guidelines given by the Three-Self authority. For instance, they insisted that the ??prodigal son' in Luke chapter 15 represented the proletariat and that the feasting of the cow provided by his father represented the pleasurable lifestyle of a socialist. Isn't this ridiculous? Actually, you Communists don't want us to say that. Jesus lived 2,000 years ago; was there such a thing as ??proletariat'? Nor was there such thing as ??socialist.' Correct? We simply couldn't accept such interference with our faith. The Bible tells us that ?? Christ is the Head of the Church,' and that He can't be replaced. We know from the Bible that it's the inspired Word of God and is the sole, supreme basis of Christian living and ministry. These facts can't be altered." They responded, "It's not the same now as several years earlier! Now you may preach your spiritual messages and say what you like." I then said something that greatly displeased them (one of them even blushed), "Well, I'll have to wait and see" (in other words, I did not quite believe them). But if I find anything inconsistent with the Bible in the Three-Self Church, I'll surely disagree." They were greatly annoyed. The matter of my "reversal of unjust verdict" was put on hold.
As far as going abroad is concerned, I had never dared to be so wishful, believing that the Communist Party would not give approval to someone who had been through lengthy labor reform. If only the Communist Party found out I had such an inclination, they would have regarded me as even more "counter-revolutionary" - "with the intention of betraying the country and befriending the enemy." Even though to the Communist Party I might be no more than a wretch, to a follower of the Lord the United States was no paradise either. But then on the other hand, it was only natural for most people to fancy a chance to go abroad. In Shanghai there was a common saying which meant that one should try every means to go abroad: "one should sharpen his head in order to make his way through the small opening" (implying that this was the way to set oneself free and to gain some liberty). However, as followers of the Lord we should find out what God wills for us. The guidance of the Holy Spirit is most precious and important.
Every year since the beginning of 1979, there were brothers and sisters who invited me to go abroad - in particular Brother Zhuang. He had someone bring me a letter saying that he had already bought a house and had a car ready for me, and that I could make the move with my whole family. I told him that I could not do so for lack of leading or guidance from the Lord.
Five years later, in 1984, the enforcement of government policies became somewhat less rigid. Though I was not interviewed again regarding the matter of my "reversal of unjust verdict," unexpectedly the government for the first time spontaneously revoked my verdict. However, the final rehabilitation was not issued until 1987 (This was in connection with my penalty for the "counter-revolutionary" act of secretly preaching the gospel in the Labor Camp - details in Chapter 11).
It was true that, before God, I was a sinner to whom God had shown grace; but legally speaking, I was absolutely innocent - what sin was it to follow and serve the Lord? Besides, I was merely a follower of Christ and had no affiliation with any secular organization or political group. My reversal was proof of my true innocence.
15 The "Three-Self Renovation Movement": A movement started by the Communist government in 1950. Its aim was to enforce Christians to join the government-controlled " Three-Self Church." The Three-Self Church was not a true church in that it replaces Jesus Christ with the Communist Party as the head of the Church and held religious policies set by the government, rather than the Bible, as the supreme basis of Christian living and ministry.