The Heavenly Man


This book has been around for a long time now, but I never bothered to read it. I did pick up the gist from friends – an amazing story of one man’s suffering and dedication to the gospel.

This week while at Janene’s I picked it up and gave it a whirl. My book selection lately has been very average and I was ready to move on from my last read ‘A Fraction of the Whole’, an Aussie book that seems to lack any real coherence and subtance and onto something a little more enjoyable.

In many ways THM was exactly what I expected. A story of a man with extreme dedication to faith and Jesus in a place where many others would simply give up. For those unfamiliar with the story, the book chronicles the life of ‘Brother Yun’ a Chinese Christian as he lived during a time of great oppression in his country. This bloke spends more time in jail and cops more beatings than you would think it is humanly possible to handle. And that is pretty much the point. The story is about suffering for the gospel as well as how God provides for us in those dark times.

It was inspiring to read of the miracles that God did in his life and yet I shared his wife’s frustration (she gets to write her reflections too) at the way he seemed to enjoy placing himself in harms way in Jesus’ name. Our own western ‘sufferings’ for the gospel simply look sick and lame alongside this man’s life and there are times when I wonder whether to be thankful for the ease of my life or to wish for a life that would call greater faith out of me.

Its a sad thing that Christianity is so much less potent in a comfortable world and so much more alive in a place of suffering.

I’m still reflecting on what I need to glean from the book. While some of it was definitely challenging there were also times I wondered if Yun had some sort of pathology that saw him constantly placing himself in these places. The flip side is that perhaps he sees the world in a whole different way to me and if I had lived in his context then maybe I’d understand.

This is a challenging book to read, but a little difficult for us to relate to as Westerners. I have been wondering why it has been so popular over here and my guess is that we all long for a more gutsy faith – at least something more than we currently experience – but I doubt any of us would really want to pay the price Yun has…

4 thoughts on “The Heavenly Man

  1. I read this book in 2003 and it remains in the top 3 of books that have influenced me most. I still think about it when I get caught up in issues of ecclesiology. I think that the church planting movement in China (as described by the non-demoninational Brother Yun) is one of the truest expressions of the Ecclesia there could be. One Spirit. One body. No superficial barriers. I felt his struggle when he describes bibles being smuggled into China along with denominational propoganda. He saw the persecution of believers as essential for growing the church, while the denominational propoganda did more to tear apart the church.

  2. I loved this book for many reasons. As Daniel said, there was a purity about the church that was thrown into relief by the poisonous intervention of western Christians, despite all their well meaning too. How mixed up is the church in the west!

    I suspect that if you see what happened as pathological then that is a culturally directed viewpoint. Western culture says that we must not suffer and that suffering is wrong and evil, to be avoided at all costs. This does not seem at all God’s perspective, where we are called to embrace suffering (James ‘count it pure joy, brethren’ springs to mind).

    How could he cope with so much suffering? I don’t know, but I DO know that God gives us grace to face the situation we are in when we need it. We don’t have the strength and grace before we need it, and we often don’t have it again afterward, but in the situation He provides. There is also a grace given to walk through situations like this that few have. Few christians anywhere would have the depth of expeience that Yun had, and few would are given the grace for it. Although it makes our sufferings look pitiful, we need to find the opportunities for God to work in us where we are – if we do that I don’t believe we need be ashamed of our walk.

  3. I haven’t read it yet although it’s on my list of books to read. Like you, I have gleaned a lot from what friends told me who have read it. Your comment there are times when I wonder whether to be thankful for the ease of my life or to wish for a life that would call greater faith out of me. I have to agree with. I know I regularly feel the tension between liking my comfort zone and feeling the urgency of sharing the gospel with a needy world. I also wonder about the difference between suffering for a purpose (Jesus) and just suffering full stop. I’ve met a lot of Christians who take the notion that Christians will suffer too far and feel guilty if they’re not suffering all the time. No doubt I will need to read the book!

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