12Indeed all who delight in piety and are determined to live a devoted and godly life in Christ Jesus will meet with persecution [will be made to suffer because of their religious stand]. -2 Timothy 2:12 (AMP)
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is a thirty four year old husband and father of two boys who has been imprisoned in Iran for 865 days. What is his crime? According to the Iranian government, Youcef Nadarkhani is guilty of apostasy.
What exactly is apostasy? The official Encarta Dictionary defines it as:
Renunciation of faith; the renunciation of a religious or political belief or allegiance
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani stands accused, condemned and adjudged guilty for leaving the Islamic faith and converting to Christianity. What is his sentence for doing so; death.
How can this be? In a “modern world”, how can it be that someone can receive a death sentence for their religious choice? The real question that resounds through my mind as I sift my way through all of this is: do any other religious beliefs in Iran, besides that of converting to Christianity, carry a sentence of death?
As a Christian, I struggle in my prayers with God, in reverence and respect of Who God is, but still asking Him, why? I cannot wrap my human understanding around it, and therefore have to lean on the Spirit.
Scripture leaves nothing hidden when it comes to informing us of the persecution that we all will face to one degree or another. But in light of what Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, his wife and their two boys are facing, I have no real problems.
We in America are allotted the freedom to complain of our “persecutions” from the comfort of our air-conditioned church buildings while seated on our padded pews, between sips of our double mocha lattes from the church coffee shop. We may even offer up a group prayer for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and his family from one of our many classrooms inside of our beautiful church building. Perhaps we even extend a prayer for him and his family as we bow our heads before the meal at our favorite restaurant after church.
I ponder the reality that even with media coverage we do not know the actuality of what Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and his family are going through. Is he cold, wounded, sick, hungry, or scared? Is he huddled in a dank corner with his arms wrapped around himself like an abused child? What are his wife and children going through? What are his sons thinking?
Even in an America rotting away at an alarming rate by an almost parasitical moral decay, I am blessed. We who are of the Christian faith still have the right to stand and the right to believe and the freedom to express that belief. Do not take it for granted or it will slip away and be gone before you know it.
God has blessed us with freedom. But too often overlooked is the fact that whatever it is that He has blessed us with, we are not too simply gorge ourselves on it until it is completely consumed. We are called to be stewards with what He has blessed us with. Planting, investing, and sowing so that there is a harvest.
Have we done that in America? Or have we basically lived off the fat of the “land” that someone else tended? What role has stewardship played in the retention of our freedoms?
I am merely talking about a life of Christianity: living it. Jesus said:
16Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16
This verse is explicit in stewardship. The light is not our own!
12Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the Light which is Life. –John 8:12
Our stewardship, our responsibility is to live a life that allows the brilliance of His light to draw others to Him through us. There is no light in and of ourselves without Him.
Saul’s conversion to Paul was initiated by his contact with the Light:
6But as I was on my journey and approached Damascus, about noon a great blaze of light flashed suddenly from heaven and shone about me. –Acts 22:6
If you read the entire text, it was the beginning of Paul and the end of Saul.
God is God and I cannot comprehend His ways. But He told us that in Isaiah 55:9:
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.
America’s population in July 2011 was 311,591,917. Eighty percent of Americans claim to be Christians that is 249,273,534 people.
God sent His Angels to deliver Lot and his family from the incineration of Sodom because of the request of Abraham, Genesis 18-19. What would God do if His people in America alone prayed?
What will the outcome be? I do not know. What I can speculate is the regardless there will be proponents, Christian and non- Christian alike that will offer why they believe God did what He did. The truth remains, only God knows.
The one thing I carry in my heart as I pray for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, his wife and sons, is this. Whether we see the purpose now or not, it will be revealed then. But worldwide, despite the efforts of a country to destroy a man, his family and his faith, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is steward that has allowed the Light to shine through his life, for the whole world to see. Iran is incapable of ever distinguishing that.