Feb

22

2012

Matt Smethurst|11:24 PM CT

Iran Sentences Pastor to Execution for Converting to Christianity

Editor's Note: An Iranian believer who lives in the United States passed along two links [here and here] to give us more context concerning Pastor Nadarkhani's beliefs. Let's pray for him not only to come to an orthodox understanding of the Trinity, if he hasn't already, but also for the Iranian government to spare his life.

The Story: Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani faces imminent execution for charges of abandoning Islam and refusing to recant his Christian faith, the American Center for Law and Justice reports.

The 34-year-old husband and father of two, whose case was temporarily delayed in December, may now be executed at any moment without warning, according to a new---and apparently final---trial court verdict. Unfortunately, many of the details surrounding the case remain unclear.

The Background: Pastor Nadarkhani's clash with the Iranian government began in 2006 when he was briefly imprisoned on charges of apostasy and evangelism. In 2009 he was arrested for protesting mandated Islamic instruction in his son's school. This charge, however, was soon changed to fit his original "crimes" of apostasy and evangelism.

Nadarkhani was sentenced to death in September 2010 but proceeded to remain alive in prison. In July 2011, his lawyer received a written verdict from the Iranian Supreme Court, which upheld the death sentence yet included a provision for annulment should the pastor recant his faith. In September 2011, the Commission on International Religious Freedom and even President Obama issued statements denouncing Iran's egregious human rights breach and demanding Nadarkhani's immediate release.

Nadarkhani is now approaching 900 days separated from his wife, his two sons, and his church. Nevertheless, God's sustaining grace has enabled him to endure. In a poignant, Scripture-soaked letter to his congregation dated June 2, 2010, the imprisoned pastor, echoing the apostle Peter, wrote: "[The true believer] does not need to wonder for the fiery trial that has been set on him as though it were something unusual, but it pleases him to participate in Christ's suffering because the believer knows he will rejoice in [Christ's] glory."

Why It Matters: 2,000 years ago, the Lord Jesus Christ issued a series of promises to every would-be follower of his:

"You will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 10:22).

"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you....If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:18, 20).

"I have said these things to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

"I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20).

If you're a follower of King Jesus, then Youcef Nadarkhani is family. And unless the King chooses to intervene, this brother of yours will soon be hanged. If that be the case, may his tragic departure serve to glorify the One who hung in the place of everyone who would ever turn to Him in faith---persecuted pastors, Iranian executioners, and blog readers alike.

What Can I Do?

It's certainly easy to feel helpless in a situation like this. "Can I do anything?" you may wonder. Yes, in fact, you can. Most importantly, pray for Youcef and his family. They're not spiritual superheroes immune to doubts and fears. Just like you and me, they stand in desperate need of divine grace to fight the good fight, to finish the race, and to keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7). Further, as Michael Avramovich observes, international pressure has continued to help keep Pastor Nadarkhani alive. So consider "Tweeting for Youcef." You can also let Iranian officials know your views on his fate by writing a respectful note or a petition from the members of your church to the Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations at the following address:

The Honorable Mohammed Khazaee

Ambassador and Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations

622 Third Avenue

New York City, New York 10017

Fax: 1.212.867.7086

Email: iran@un.int

May God be pleased to magnify his name through the witness of this man of whom the world isn't worthy.

Matt Smethurst serves as associate editor for The Gospel Coalition and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter.

Categories: Current Events

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