Faith lived out in the shadow of arrest
Last week in the church’s calendar we remembered William Tyndale who was born in England in 1494. After studying at Oxford and Cambridge, he became determined to translate the Scriptures from the Greek directly into contemporary English but was thwarted in this by the Bishop of London. So he settled in Hamburg in 1524.
When the first copies of his translation arrived in England in 1526, it was bitterly attacked as subversive by the ecclesial authorities. He spent much of his life making revisions to his work.
His life’s work proved good enough to be the basic working text for those who, at the beginning of the following century, were to produce what became known as the Authorised Version of the Bible.
William was arrested in 1535 and imprisoned in Brussels on charges of heresy. He was first strangled and then burnt at the stake in 1536. His last words were, “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
I was reminded of William Tyndale when I read an ABC news article where correspondent, Matthew Carney, travelled through China and spoke to churchgoers who are worried they could soon be arrested.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has warned that all religions now have to become "Chinese" and the new laws will attempt to bring churchgoers and their leaders under party control.
After weeks of negotiation, Matthew Carney was given access to one small Protestant underground, or home church. It operates in a shop-front and has about 50 members.
Wang Zeqing is the self-taught pastor and was a simple farmer until he got the calling. He says the new laws will be the congregation's greatest challenge, but that their faith will not falter.
"A person who truly believes in Jesus Christ will not lose their faith or become weak due the changing environment," he says.
The new laws will put the state firmly in charge, giving the Communist Party the ability to hire and fire church leaders and change religious doctrine to make it more Chinese.
That means churchgoers will have to pledge loyalty to the Communist Party first, which Pastor Wang says cannot be done. "Jesus Christ is my only belief, my only loyalty is to Jesus Christ," he says.
In a very real sense the whole New Testament was written in the shadow of persecution, arrest and martyrdom and it has continued down the ages to this present day. Costly discipleship has always been part of our Christian heritage.
– William Tyndale, Translator of the Scripture – from Exciting Holiness, Canterbury Press.