The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,
Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. (Proverbs 21:1)
As I scrolled down Facebook this morning, I came across an article a friend had shared regarding Kim Jong-un being willing to open North Korea to the gospel. For those who are not aware, North Korean Christians have been among the most severely persecuted in the world. Of course, desperation and a failing economy were necessary before the North Korean dictator would take such a radical step, but nonetheless, if true, this is the answer to the prayers of Koreans, both North and South, that have been raised to God since the division of Korea after the Korean War began in 1950.
For those of us who are old enough to remember the events leading up to the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and Russia, this event brings to mind the rapid rise of Christianity (along with other not-so-desirable elements from the West) that completely transformed the landscape of what had been an atheistic stronghold for the better part of seventy years. One friend of mine established eleven churches in fourteen years in the Czech Republic after the Wall came down and multiplied thousands came to the Lord as various ministries, NGO’s and other religious organizations began to share the love of Christ with those who had been cut off from the gospel for so long.
Recently, one of my best friends published the memoirs of his time as a Bible smuggler behind the Iron Curtain. He had visited a man whose knees had been broken by the communists in prison to keep him from going to his knees in prayer. Nevertheless, the gospel flames burned bright in the hearts of those who continued to meet in secret and pray that religious freedom would one day return to their land. Just as those held captive by the communist regime of the Soviet Union rejoiced to see freedom come at long last, the Church in Korea is no doubt cautiously rejoicing for what seems to be a sweeping change in policy in North Korea.
President Trump has received a lot of criticism from his detractors for making peace with a dictator whose human rights violations are among the worst in recent memory – maybe in all of history. However, I believe this criticism, like so many aimed at the White House today, are disingenuous. It betrays a desire by the left to see Trump fail at any cost, despite the fact that we are watching something unfold before our eyes that are truly historic. I have no doubt that the White House is well aware of the atrocities of Kim Jong-un, however, Russia likewise had many human rights violations when President Ronald Reagan began negotiating with Mikhail Gorbachev. Their economic desperation likewise resulted in a new policy of Glasnost, or “openness,” which caused the oppressive hand of communism to first relax and then, eventually, disappear. If the reports we are hearing of a new day of religious liberty coming to the Christians in North Korea is indeed true, it would seem that President Trump’s move to negotiate with the North Korean dictator has been, at least in part, justified. We will still have to see if Kim Jong-un keeps his promises.
Some may say that we are being incredibly naïve to believe that such a tyrant will loosen his grip on his people, especially Christians. However, even if this is just posturing for the time being, we’ve seen before what a little freedom does to a nation that has long been denied it. Besides this, the North Korean dictator is genuinely in dire need for a change in his nation. It is reported that about six million North Koreans are starving and that about a third of North Korean children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Another factor that is encouraging is that the number of Chinese in North Korea has multiplied by five times in the years between 2012 and 2017. As many know, the underground Church in China is the fastest growing in the world and now the estimate is that there might be as many as 400,000 Christians in North Korea due to the influx of the Chinese.
Despite these promising signs, reasons to doubt the sincerity of the North Korean dictator are well-founded. The leadership there has to wonder what may happen to them if the people gain too much freedom and begin to rise up. They may very well demand justice for the atrocities that many of them have had to suffer. The North Korean ruler has been notoriously cruel to any who have opposed him, and death or imprisonment has often been the payment for the least sign of resistance. That is why we, the Church in the west, must pray. If there is even a chance that the report of religious freedom for Christians is true, it is a cause to rejoice and be hopeful. Besides, such cracks in the walls of similarly tough regimes have historically signaled a crashing down of the entire system, as we saw in Eastern Europe in the late 80’s and early 90’s.
Lastly, we must also remember that all of this is ultimately not the work of men, be it the President or a desperate despot in a starving land. The true instigator of this is God, moving on the prayers of his people in Korea who for years have prayed for a unified nation, whose families have been sundered and whose hearts have yearned for this moment. No matter how you slice it, we truly stand on the brink of a miracle moment, and we must stand vigilant in prayer that God’s will is fully realized in North Korea. Regime change can come later. The immediate need is for the persecution to cease and religious freedom and economic recovery to come for the sake of the suffering people in Korea. Few have suffered as the North Koreans have, and they need our prayers and support.
It grieves me more than I can say that there are those who would rather see President Trump fail than for freedom to come to the North Korean people, or for America to prosper, for that matter. Bill Mahar wants a recession to oust Trump, but I think the transparent vitriol of the left has been exposed, and hopefully, Americans are becoming wise to their bias. We should all join in prayer for our leaders, regardless of their party, since a victory for them is a victory for us all. Ultimately, my hope is not in any President but in the God to sets up kings and brings them down. My hope is in a good God who loves people, not politics, and will use whomever He wishes to accomplish His purposes.
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of Connecting Point Church, located at 101 Adkisson Way in Taft, California, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to randylanebunch.org. For more information on the ministries of CPC, you can go the ministry’s website at connectingpc.org.