Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani

Youcef Nadarkhani

Youcef Nadarkhani

Youcef Nadarkhani is an evangelical Christian pastor, born to Iranian Muslim parents.  He has been sentenced to death for converting to Christianity, despite the fact that he says he was never a practicing Muslim, and is awaiting execution in Iran. Nadarkhani was first arrested in Oct. 2009 for protesting the teaching of Islam at his children’s school. The charges were later changed to apostasy and evangelization of Muslims. He was sentenced to death for apostasy, but after considerable international pressure the Iranian courts delayed implementing the verdict, sending the case to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for review.

At the time this was posted, it is unknown whether Pastor Youcef will be executed, or not.  It is unknown whether Nadarkhani will be permitted to appeal his execution order, since most of Iran’s executions are conducted in secret.  There has been tremendous public outcry and international pressure on Iran to free Pastor Youcef, but given Iran’s antagonistic relationship with the rest of the world, it may not do any good.

How should Christians respond to this?  The obvious answer would be to pray for him and his family.

A less obvious response is to consider the fact that the Bible warns us that persecution is to be expected for the Christian:

  • Matthew 5:10 (NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Acts 14:21-22  And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
  • 2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
  • 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
  • Hebrews 11:36-38 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

Crucifixion of Peter

The persecution and martyrdom of Christians has been common since the time of the Apostles.  In Acts  7, Stephen was stoned to death for blasphemy.  In Acts 12:2, James the brother of John was martyred with a sword, and Peter was imprisoned immediately after.  Of the twelve Apostles, only John was not martyred, although tradition says he survived being boiled in oil, and died in exile on the Island of Patmos.  Peter was crucified upside-down.  The list goes on:

  • Ignatius of Antioch martyred in 107 AD.
  • Justin Martyr of Palestine in 165 AD.
  • Polycarp of Smyrna, probably around 160 AD.
  • Origen of Alexandria, about 250 AD.
  • King Edward the Martyr, 979
  • Thomas Becket, 1170
  • William Tyndale, 1535

This is but a tiny percentage of those who have given their lives for the Gospel in the past.  Thousands more are in prison today in places like China, Pakistan; and Iran; untold thousands more die annually in places all around the world.

Here in the United States, we don’t see this kind of persecution.  When someone calls us names or mocks God, we complain about how persecuted we are.  We have no idea what real persecution is.

Nadarkhani has refused to renounce his Christian faith, even though he has repeatedly been pressured to recant.  I wonder how many American Christians would do the same, under similar circumstances.  Too many self-proclaimed Christians are walking away from their faith in the United States without even being persecuted.  Many of us hide our faith, just because we are too embarrassed, afraid we won’t “fit in.”  What would we do if we faced a death penalty for proclaiming Jesus Christ?

As a Christian, I must continue to pray for Youcef Nadarkhani and others like him around the world.  However, I must also pray for Christians in America who are too ashamed of the Gospel to let their friends and co-workers know they go to church; too soft to stand up to a little mocking, let alone imprisonment or death; and so uncertain of their own relationship with Jesus Christ that they just walk away from God and the church.  I must pray for my fellow Christians, that they may be bold witnesses for Jesus Christ, despite any persecution that they may encounter.  Lastly, I must continue to pray for myself, that I may boldly proclaim the Gospel, whatever the cost, whatever the consequences, no compromises, no backing down.

CHRISTIAN:  If you are not being persecuted for your faith – WHY NOT?