Every Friday in Sacred Space, Brad Williams explores the place of popular culture in the local church.
Most of us have never seen real persecution with our own eyes, and for that I am grateful. In the United States, Christians may have to deal with being made fun of, and we may be misrepresented in the media. But that is hardly the same as having to worry about an angry mob kicking in your door and dragging you off to your death. Friends I have made have had this very real worry, and I have myself had to leave town under police escort because of who we were helping and where. I got the escort; my friend remained to do his ministry.
I bring this up here because a brother in Iran is in the news right now. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani has been sentenced to death by the Iranian Supreme Court for the crime of converting from Islam to Christianity. This brother is 34 years old. He has a wife and two sons from whom he has been separated for over 900 days. His life could end any moment for the sake of the gospel of Christ. What can your church do for Pastor Nadarkhani? I would like to suggest several things.
First, you can pray for him. Encourage people in your church to pray for Pastor Nadarkhani and for his wife and children. Keep up with his plight, and let your sympathies be with him. As Paul once admonished the Colossians to “remember my chains,” so now your church should remember Pastor Youcef and pray for him.
Second, our churches ought to write our congressmen, our Senators, and our President to intercede for Pastor Nadarkhani. This is not an exercise in futility. Not long ago, a brother named Said Musa was released from prison in Afghanistan after being arrested and sentenced to death over the same charge. Do this right now. Look up your leaders and write them, and encourage others to do so. It matters. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
Third, do not allow Pastor Nadarkhani’s suffering cause bitterness to root in your heart toward the people of Iran, nor the greater Muslim world. Pastor Nadarkhani is suffering for Christ’s sake, and he is suffering for his own people, though they may not realize it. Pastor Nadarkhani loves the people of Iran, and so should you. He wants them to know the beauty of God in Christ reconciling sinners to himself. And so he bears witness in suffering. Do not give in to anger and prejudice. Instead, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). Remember that our brothers and sisters are suffering in the world at the hands of the wicked for the sake of the wicked. There is a reason that ”the world is not worthy” of such selfless servants (Hebrews 11:38).
Call on your church to remember those who suffer. Call on them to act. Call on them to pray. To do otherwise is equal to abandoning our own family, and worse, it is tantamount to abandoning the Lord to His sufferings, for the Lord Himself said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45).