The Church is More Like Its Persecutors Than Its Lord (Introduction to Preparing for the Underground Church, Part III)

(Part III of VII of Pastor Foley’s introductory essay to Rev. Richard Wurmbrand’s Preparing for the Underground Church. To order a print or electronic copy of the bilingual Korean/English edition of Preparing for the Underground Church, including Pastor Foley’s introductory essay and a foreword by Voice of the Martyrs historian Merv Knight, visit Amazon or click here to visit the bookstore page on our website. For Part I of Pastor Foley’s introductory essay , click here.) 

Homosexuality and transgenderism are expressions of sexuality which Christians (rightly) identify as sin. But the sin of self-creation–the idea of the body as modeling clay shaped by us according to our wills and attractions–is one many Christians engage in daily without protest. As the Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 2:3-4, God brings us to recognize sin not first so that we may judge it but rather so that we may recognize that same root at work in ourselves and earnestly repent of it, in full assurance of God’s forbearance and patience.

As Christians, we must become aware of how we ourselves treat our own bodies as blocks of clay. This is especially true for us in Korea, where plastic surgery—the epitome of treating the body as a block of clay to be shaped according to our desire to be desired—is so common that it is given as a graduation present to high school girls.

But there are far more prosaic forms of self-design that come from the same root, even going to the roots of our own hair. “Gray hair is a crown of splendor,” we are taught in Proverbs 16:31; “it is attained in the way of righteousness.” We are called to wear our age as a crown—a martyr’s crown testifying to a Christ-centered life given for others, in fact—but we hide our age in in an effort to portray vital energy. But the Bible does not call us to amaze and attract the world with the vital energy available to Christians. Instead, it calls us to soberly accept in our bodies the reality of death, not as something to be feared or avoided or denied, but as something to be remembered and meditated on daily so that our focus remains on the new creation, not the present one. As the Apostle Paul says, “We who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”[1] Our Christian bodies, in other words, are not intended to serve as lifelong deceptive advertising for the vitality of this world. Instead, our appearance is designed to openly display that all human beings are mortal creatures whose confidence is not in the vitality of this world but in the vitality of the world to come.

The Bible is actually far more direct in its admonitions against displaying this-worldly vitality—through, for example, braided hair, gold, pearls, and expensive clothes[2]—than it is about gay marriage. But we pay almost no attention to these instructions, even though it is through following these that we learn to be faithful to the greater matters concerning the body. Thus we fail to see how these desires come from the same root as the sexual expressions that concern us far more. The great early Korean church father Kim Kyo Shin, upon discovering his daughter’s bottle of imported cold cream, smashed it against a rock in a rather vivid reminder of the importance of Christians seeking to adorn ourselves with good deeds rather than makeup. He challenged her, “Since the rock is covered with cream, do you see the natural appearance of the rock?”[3] It is hard to imagine that Kim Kyo Shin would not find many such things in our lives to smash against rocks today.

Even our contemporary understanding of Christian marriage draws its nourishment from the same root as gay marriage, based as it is on spiritual companionship, mutual fulfillment, and romantic love. But as Stephen Adubato notes, it is not the romance in marriage that mirrors the relationship between Christ and the church but rather the martyrdom:

[This is what] man and woman are called to do in their marriage: ultimately, to die to themselves, and become united to Christ through their spouse. In this sense, they are replicating the heroic act of the martyrs, who literally die for the sake of union with, and glorification of, Christ. Thus, perhaps in a less dramatic way, the married man and woman are giving witness to the fact that the value and meaning of their marriage, and of human life as a whole, belongs to Something other than themselves.[4]

Even children are molded from the clay of our individual design and desire today, rather than received when and as God gives. Sociologist Paul Yonnet explains:

[T]he essential giftedness of life has today become instead the product of human will: children are conceived, brought to term, and then given life in the world, according to schedules and means ordered by the parents, and not necessarily through the physical engagement of the biological mother and father of the child. Thus, to be a child is now legally defined by being “desired” rather than by being “given.”[5]

Children are birthed by our design into a society we Christians have had a hand in designing—here in Korea, a “seven give-up” society[6] where children grow up into increasingly insurmountable barriers to finding fruitful work, supporting themselves in marriage, or having a child, let alone several. It is no wonder that, blocked by the flaming swords of our own selfishness from even the consolations granted to us east of Eden, they consider as worthless and repressive the identities given by God and instead fashion themselves from the clay made of KPOP and Korean drama. The result is a birth rate so low that the Korean population decay to half its present size in the next hundred years, with even half of that remaining half over the age of 65.[7] Only Muslims, who still regard childbirth as sacred gift and duty, will be around to puzzle over the fruits of a society bent on the self-destruction of self-creation.

[1] 2 Cor. 4:11, NIV.

[2] “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” —1 Timothy 2:9-10, NIV.

[3] Recollections of Kim Kyo-Shin., p. 200.

[4] Stephen Adubato, 2016. “A Revolutionary Attraction.” Homiletic and Pastoral Review.

[5] Ephraim Radner, 2016. A Time to Keep: Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of a Human Life. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, Loc. 2291.

[6] Hyung-A Kim, 2015. “The seven-give-up generation: The crisis facing South Korea’s youth.” APPS Policy Forum.

[7] Yoon Ja-young, 2016. “Population to halve in 100 years.” Korea Times.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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1 Response to The Church is More Like Its Persecutors Than Its Lord (Introduction to Preparing for the Underground Church, Part III)

  1. Pastor Foley says:

    Hello 린다 자매,

    Keep your eye out for the next installment of the essay, Part IV, which has the following paragraph which is especially related to what you shared in your comment:

    “Self-creation of all kinds is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity. But in Christ there is no condemnation for our past complicity in the sexual revolution. Just as Rev. Wurmbrand emphasized that communists are not our enemies, co-conspirators in the sexual revolution are very much the subjects of God’s love. His love takes the form of light that enables each of us to see beyond ourselves, back to the loving embrace of our creator. “

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