stoney-path-Martin-Sharman

Photo by Martin Sharman licensed through Creative Commons

By Dr. Harold Sala

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.  James 4:17, NKJV

You are confronted with a decision: one choice demands that you compromise your integrity but there is an immediate benefit attached to this decision. The other means you honor your beliefs and make the hard decision which is unpopular and, no doubt, will result in some tough times for you. Which one would you make?  And why?  Had you asked Wang Ming Dao that question, he would have told you that the right path is usually the hard one. He would know. He had faced that very issue and his decision cost him his freedom for 22 long years.  During that time he saw his wife only three times as he was sent from his native Shanghai to Northern China where the winters are long and hard, and he worked in a coal mine.

So what brought this man to the crossroads? His faith! When the Communists took over in China in 1949, Wang was a young man who was pastoring a growing, thriving church. “They can close our churches,” he said, “but they can’t keep us from worshiping God in our homes,” and thus he became one of the active participants in a house-church movement which the government sought to suppress.

Wang was arrested, tried for being a “counter revolutionary”, and sentenced to prison. After he had been there for a short while, he was brought before a tribunal and told, “If you will sign a statement repudiating your Christian beliefs and promising not to encourage house church worship, we will release you and you can go home.” That’s when Wang came to the crossroads. “If I am outside prison,” he reasoned, “I can still influence people, but in prison, I can’t do much!” Satan was playing mind games with Wang, and he wanted his freedom. “Signing a piece of paper against my will doesn’t change how I feel in my heart,” so he thought. So he relented, signed the document and went home.

Then the enormity of what he had done sank in. “I have been a Judas who betrayed His Lord,” he told friends. His repentance was genuine. He put a sign around his chest which read, “Judas–traitor!” and walked the streets. People thought he was crazy and had completely lost his mind.

Finally he went to authorities and said, “Put me back in prison. I will never again deny Jesus Christ!” and he got his request. His wife spent 20 of those 22 years also in prison.

All he had to do was to recant his faith!  “The hard path,” he contended, “is usually the right one!”

Question: What decision are you confronted with? Thinking of walking out on your husband for someone younger, better established financially, one who treats you with more respect?  Are you willing to look the other way when your boss rips off the company, because he is the key to your advancement? Do you hesitate to say anything when a teammate is using illegal drugs to enhance his performance, because you want a winning team?

James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ, wrote what was probably the earliest of the 27 New Testament documents. He said, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17, NKJV). Pretty cut and dried; rather black and white. If sin amounts to anything in the sight of God, then you had better think twice when you turn away from doing the hard thing which you know, without a shadow of a doubt, is the right thing.

Brother Wang was right: the hard path is usually the right one. It leads to higher ground which eventually takes you to heaven where you will be very glad you chose the right path.

Resource reading: James 4