Go to Jail and Collect Six Murderers
One of the most moving songs that I have heard recently is J.J. Heller’s “What Love Really Means.” In fact, one of the hardest messages in that song for law-abiding Christians to process is the one concerning the murderer who cries in his cell to God, saying, “Oh, Lord, forgive me. I want to go home” and who hears from Jesus, deep in his heart, “I know you've murdered, I know you've lied. I've watch you suffer all of your life, and now that you're listening, I'll tell you that I will love you for you . . .”
I thought of this song when I read the story of Pastor Shi Weihan. Pastor Shi operated a bookstore with permission from the Chinese government. However, he wasn’t given permission to print Bibles as the communist government only allows Amity Press to do so in China. The need for Bibles far exceeds their availability. Pastor Shi had a press with which he and his group printed almost two million Bibles! These were freely distributed throughout the country.
At 5 a.m. one morning, Pastor Shi awoke to the sounds of his dog barking. That kind of noise didn’t come from his pet unless a large group of people were near. Sure enough, outside were 30 police officers and 20 vehicles. He was taken from his home, his wife and two young daughters, ages 7 and 11.
They brought him to a detention center in Beijing. With 30 others, Pastor Shi was crammed into a 190 square foot cell. He was questioned everyday about whether he was printing copies of the Bible, the names and phone numbers of other pastors who were involved and how many Scriptures were printed.
One day, after not getting the answers they sought, the police removed his clothes, hand-cuffed him outside in the frigid cold with his arms extended. Periodically, through the night, they would return to ask him questions, spray him with cold water and apply electric shocks to his bare flesh. After praying to God for Him to rescue him, Pastor Shi was again sprayed with cold water but this time it felt warm. He heard the Lord say to him, “My grace is enough for you.” Apparently, after having passed out, Shi awoke the following day on the floor of one of the offices. An hour later, he was taken back to his cell. The total time of his incarceration was 37 days.
He was released on bail only to be arrested again 3 months later. This time they locked him in a cell with 14 criminals, 11 of whom were murderers. Everyone there faced either a life sentence or death. God moved him to preach the gospel to them. Six became believers and wanted to be baptized; all six being murderers! Without a tub or a pool, Pastor Shi baptized them in the cell with a rice bowl full of water.
I read that story and thought, that’s why God allowed Pastor Shi to be taken from his home and his family, including two elementary age daughters. Without him, those six murderers may have spent the rest of their lives in prison or been executed. They would have spent an eternity in Hell.
Perhaps like in J.J. Heller’s song, the six may have cried out to God that they wanted to go home. As she sang, perhaps in response to Pastor Shi’s gospel witness, they too received Christ as their sin-bearer and Savior and the Lord acknowledged their crimes of murder and promised to love them in spite of what they had done. Isn’t it great to know that God’s love is so much greater than the awful crimes of murderers? It gives me comfort to know that as great as my sins are, His grace is all the greater! If God’s grace was limited to covering only certain sins, all of us would be afraid that we crossed that line. Rejoice and pray with me that more people would receive the amazing grace of God that is greater than all of our sins!