A Genuine Christian Story for CED
- Paul: Here is a real story of a falsely maligned
Christian who was able to withstand years of torture
and imprisonment through her unshakable belief in a
just and merciful God. As Chuck Colson accurately
notes: "Alone among the world's great religions,
Christianity gives value and meaning to evil and
suffering." Nien Cheng lived out the evidence of this
and showed the power of Christ in doing so. From
--- BreakPoint with Charles Colson
BREAKPOINT with Charles Colson
Wrenching Good Out of Evil
The Story of Nien Cheng
July 20, 2005
On the evening of August 30, 1966, Nien Cheng sat
alone in her Shanghai home, reading. Toward midnight,
she heard a truck stop in front of her house. Moments
later a gang of Red Guards burst through her
frontdoor. The leader stepped up. "We are the Red
Guards. We have come to take revolutionary action
against you!" he said.
The gang proceeded to ransack Cheng's home. Cheng --
a wealthy woman with ties to England -- was thrown in
prison; her daughter was also taken from her. She
was accused by the Communist government of spying
for the British. The charge was false -- but powerful
people were about to make her a sacrificial lamb,
somebody who would discredit Chairman Mao's
At a kangaroo court, the prosecutor demanded that
Cheng confess. She was outraged. "I have never done
anything against the Chinese people and governments,"
Cheng was taken back to prison. It was the beginning
of seven years of torture, illness, and endless
efforts to make her confess. But Cheng resolved never
to make a false confession. Although raised Buddhist,
she had become a Christian as a teenager. During her
years behind bars, she later wrote, "I was not afraid.
I believed in a just and merciful God, and I thought
he would lead me out of the abyss."
As I note in my new book, THE GOOD LIFE, Cheng's
captors were astounded at her ability to resist. Here
she was, the poster child of the decadent capitalists;
they were certain that someone who enjoyed her
privileges would crumble once the material props of
her old life were removed.
But the measure of Cheng's life was not found in
what she owned. During her suffering, one thing kept
her sane: her belief in the truth. Through committing
herself to the truth, she never lost her humanity --
and she remained unaffected by the appalling changes
in her circumstances.
Cheng's embrace of the truth also allowed her to
envision that justice would eventually prevail, and
that good could come out of this evil. In this, Cheng
was fortified, of course, by her Christian faith.
Alone among the world's great religions, Christianity
gives value and meaning to evil and suffering. British
novelist Dorothy Sayers captured the essence of
this. Christianity, she wrote "affirms . . . that
perfection is attained through the active and positive
effort to wrench a real good out of a real evil."
This is the essence of what Christians call
redemption, and it underscores another truth: We have
to understand the evil in ourselves before we can
truly embrace the good in life.
In 1973, Cheng was finally released and later
immigrated to America. I had the privilege of hosting
a dinner that Prison Fellowship gave in her honor in
Cheng's life perfectly illustrates the fact that the
good life is not conferred by wealth or possessions.
Just as important, it cannot be denied even in the
midst of horrific adversity. In fact, as I discovered
in my life, we often find true meaning and purpose in
deprivation, when all the distractions of modern
life are stripped away.
The good life, you see, is realized in our ability
to hold fast to the truth -- and the human dignity
that rests upon it.
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