September 26, 2014, marks two years since my husband, Pastor Saeed Abedini, was imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith. Despite horrific conditions, including violent beatings and a promise that they would free him if he denied Christ, Saeed has stood strong for his faith in Jesus Christ.
Persecution isn’t archaic
For many people, the idea of someone being arrested because of what they believe is a foreign and archaic concept-–one that happens only in distant lands and in distant times. But for many Christians, imprisonment, torture and even death is a reality for believing in Jesus. It is something that Christ followers have been familiar with since the time that Jesus Christ walked on this earth.
Christ came to love the world and die for the sins of the world. His time on earth was spent healing the sick, defending the weak and loving the same people who crucified him. But as the Church in Acts grew, many of the first disciples were brutally killed for following him.
Although the first disciples walked the earth several centuries ago, persecution continues today. Christianity is the number one persecuted religion in the world, and yet true Christianity is based on love and forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ, even for those who persecute us.
Today, as I live with a deep pain of not having my husband by my side and seeing my children cry out for their dad, I am reminded of discussions Saeed and I would have about persecution. Though those conversations feel like a distant past, I realize now that God allowed them to prepare our family for the present.
Recently, as I flipped through Saeed’s writings, I discover something Saeed had written that I had not paid attention to before.
As Christians we are called to suffer (1 Pet. 2:20-21, 1 Pet. 1:29, Acts 14:22):
"For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps" (1 Pet. 2:20-21).
Persecution and suffering result in:
- Receiving the crown of glory (1 Pet. 5:1, 4)
- Sharing in his suffering and having a deeper revelation of Christ and the cross (Phil. 3:10)
- The furtherance of the gospel (Phil. 1:12)
- Shaping our character to become more like Jesus (Rom. 5:3-5)
- Bringing prayer and unity to the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:26)
- Repentance and sanctification (Rev. 7:13-15)
- The spirit of glory and of God resting upon you (1 Pet. 4:14)
What does persecution look like in your culture? Are you willing to take actions that result in persecution and reap the above rewards? Use your freedom to free bounded places and bounded people even if it means you become bounded yourself.
Remember the persecuted
The persecuted church is on the front lines of sharing the gospel. Those who are persecuted are targeted because they are standing for their faith in Jesus. The most important thing that the persecuted church needs from the body of Christ is to know that they are remembered (Heb. 13:3) in prayer and action and that the body of Christ is standing with them. Our family has been blessed to see so many in the body of Christ standing with us.
Recently, I had the honor of meeting Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, when he honored my husband with the Richard Land Distinguish Service Award. I was overcome with emotion by the prayers and support of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I cannot express the strength our family receives in knowing that many are standing with us and we are not forgotten during this time of intense trial.
Stand with Saeed on September 26
In addition to your prayers, I ask you to use your resources to make your voice known to our government that religious freedom issues are important to you. You can write to your local government official to express your concern. I also ask you to consider joining me on September 26, 2014, as we hold prayer vigils across the United States and other countries in solidarity for Saeed and others who are imprisoned for their faith in Jesus (Heb. 13:3). For more information on times and locations for prayer vigils please go to beheardproject.com/saeed.
As Saeed would say, “Just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, in as much as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:7-8).
God Bless you all.