“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” – Hebrews 13:3
Very soon, perhaps tomorrow, the government of Iran may execute a Christian pastor for apostasy. If so, it will be the first such execution since 1990. I wish that the American press cared. I wish that the American government cared. I wish the story had caught my attention earlier, if for no other reason than to provide me more time to pray for Yousef Nadarkhani.
I’ve been preparing a church history curriculum recently, and lesson two is entitled “The Church of the Martyrs”. As I’ve been researching the stories of people like Perpetua, Polycarp and Ignatius, Pastor Nadarkhani has been living with the kind of persecution most of us will only read about. He has been imprisoned for over a year and ordered to renounce his faith under penalty of death. Twice, most recently at a hearing held September 25 & 26, Pastor Nadarkhani has refused. Under Iranian law he has one last chance. His third hearing is scheduled for September 27 & 28. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s early morning in Iran on what might be the last day of Yousef Nadarkhani’s life.
I feel sick. Pastor Nadarkhani is 32 years old. He has a wife and two sons and he is my brother in Christ. He has already shown more courage than most American Christians will ever understand. I read the stories of the early martyrs and wonder….what if I was the one on trial? And now I wonder, what if I lived in Iran? Would I hold fast, if I were in Yousef’s situation? Do I really love Christ more than my own life?
I have nothing to offer Pastor Nadarkhani now but my prayers. And if you are a Christian reading this, I beg you to pray for our brother, as well. I do not want him to go through this alone, whatever may happen. I want him to feel the weight of our prayers and the love of Christians like myself who take far too much for granted.
O Lord God,
your Son Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In his resurrection
he restores life and peace in all creation.
Comfort, we pray, our brother Yousef Nadarkhani
and surround him with your protection and lovingkindness.
Lord God, be a shield around his wife and children.
Lead the oppressors towards compassion
and give hope to the suffering.
Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.