Who Has the Real Power?

The time was just after World War II. Communism had descended like a dark shadow over most of Eastern Europe. A young Romanian student named Joseph Tson was about to discover who had the real power--the iron-fisted communist dictators or the gentle-hearted men and women of God. One day in class, the professor touched on the subject of the Bible. Joseph asked a question about the Bible's truth. The professor reacted angrily. "We no longer need the old fables," he shot back at Joseph. "You just watch. Within a generation, the church will die out." Joseph recoiled at the man's vehemence. But he knew that anger can mean someone feels threatened. Did talk of religion make his atheist professor feel threatened? It should, Joseph thought. After all, what was it Jesus said about the church? "On this rock I will build My church," we read in Matthew 16, "and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." Those are fighting words, Joseph thought. And what's more, they promise that the church will ultimately win the fight. Joseph was stuffing his books into his briefcase to leave, when a paraphrase of Jesus' words ran through his mind. "In Eastern Europe I will build My church," he seemed to hear God saying, "and Communism will not prevail against it." Joseph suddenly realized God was challenging him personally. The spiritual battle in his country was between the church and communism--and he must choose which side he was on. Then and there, Joseph resolved that he would be on God's side. Tson went on to study theology, and became pastor of the largest Baptist congregation in Eastern Europe. Over the years, he was arrested many times and beaten for his faith. But he continued to teach and preach the gospel. In 1981 Pastor Tson was exiled and came to the United States, where he translated Christian books into Romanian to smuggle back home. He also worked with Radio Free Europe, encouraging Christians to be ready. Ready for what? Tson was convinced that the church would one day prevail against Communism, just as God had promised. And he lived to see his faith vindicated in the sudden downfall of Romania's communist dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu. The extraordinary events that marked Ceausescu's overthrow are described in my new book, The Body. But in my view, the spark of that revolution was ignited years earlier in the heart of young Joseph Tson, and hundreds of others like him. The media credits Gorbachev and reformers in the Soviet Union with ending 45 years of Communism in Eastern Europe. Not so. The revolution came because the people of God believed steadfastly that it was God who establishes His church, and that there is no power that can stand against it. This story ought to give us Westerners the confidence we need to stand against our own culture, with its attacks on the church--which may be more subtle than outright communism but are every bit as real.  


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary