By Dr. Gary Tuck
Pastor Saeed Abedini. If you don’t know that name, you should google it and learn at least some basic facts … because, if you are a Christian, he is you. That’s right. There is a fundamental solidarity of all followers of King Jesus. But Saeed Abedini is just the single best known of, I don’t know, hundreds? thousands?
What I want to speak to is the issue of how we can help. Like many of you, I have read many updates over the past several months on Pastor Saeed’s situation and efforts to persuade the Iranian government to release him and efforts to get our government to pressure Iran. (Thanks especially to Jay Sekulow and ACLJ.)
As we continue to pray for him and his family to be strong, to grow stronger not weaker in his faith, and to be bold as long as he is incarcerated, I should think Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:19-20 might have some legitimate application to Saeed’s situation: “[Pray] for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (ESV)
Could we compare his situation to what we read in Philippians 1:12-17 (how the saints in Rome were more emboldened in their evangelizing because of Paul’s incarceration)? Pastor Saeed is daily attended by Farsi speaking guards who know that he is a Christian and that that is why he is there. If Saeed were not there, what do you think the chances are that those guards would come so close to the gospel? Could it be that God has him there for such a purpose? Could we boldly pray that God would work in one of them to make him uncomfortable with Islam and impressed with this victim of injustice and impressed with his Lord? Do we believe that God can get glory in some way other than to secure Saeed’s release? After all, how hard is it for our God to spring someone from prison? (Hint: see Acts 12:4-11; 16:25-26.) For that matter, how hard is anything for the Eternal Omnipotent One?
Hebrews 10:32-34 speaks of a situation of persecution. That epistle is addressed to a particular church which had a history of being persecuted. What we see in these verses is a rehearsal of their proper response as a church. “Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (ESV) Some, but not all, suffered directly at the hands of the anti-Christians. Then those who were not directly affected rose up to come to the aid of their brothers, mitigating their pains and losses.
If God can provide compensating grace accompanying a thorn in one’s flesh, I should think a situation of unjust incarceration might also be accompanied by grace. I know: Easy for me to say. But come on: Isn’t believing that part of believing in Jesus and believing His Word?
I think we need to include these stories and people more regularly in our prayer lists. I am praying that God will lead me and my wife to a particular connection (as yet unknown to me) of His choice for us to support by prayer and who knows what other way to alleviate some suffering by our Lord’s family, our brothers and sisters.
One more thought: I urge you to begin becoming informed about mistreatment of fellow Christians. I have started with “Voice of the Martyrs,” persecution.com and persecutionblog.com.