A Chinese Christian evangelist who called himself Epaphras suffered during the leadership of the Communist leader Mao Zedong. He was arrested because he refused to sing the Communist Party songs, salute the Chairman’s picture, or show his allegiance to any leader other than Christ. For that transgression, he was sentenced to life in prison.
Epaphras replied, “Didn't the Lord tell me from the beginning to give up everything and carry the cross to follow him? This is the Lord's way. I am following him on the same path. Why should I be upset? Why should I complain? This is my biggest blessing."
He languished in prison for years, then some 11 years after Chairman Mao died, Epaphras, who was then 62, was surprised by prison official who set him free. What he didn’t know was why they set him free. He soon learned the reason, though. The Communist officials and the court changed Epaphras’ record to show that he had actually recanted his faith in Jesus.
Epaphras said in reponse, “The court cheated me,” then rented a cell-like room just outside the prison gates and kept himself under house arrest. He said, “If I stay in jail, they will know I haven’t recanted.” He went one step further. He determined he would fast 5 days a week. Always smiling, he would say, “If I die from fasting and living under house arrest, then I die as a criminal just like my Lord Jesus Christ!”
After 15 years of fasting, Epaphras died at the age of 78, having made an emphatic, brave statement that true freedom is found in Christ alone. Now there’s a man who was a slave, a prisoner, you might say, of His great love for Jesus Christ. There’s a man who lived with a sense of wonder and awe of God, who took God seriously even when no one else wanted to.