The concept of defending the body politic — no matter where it was threatened — is both a traditional Western imperative and, when it takes the form of the Body of Christ, a Christian moral duty. Our charge as Christians to evangelize and bring Christ to the darkest corners of the world is at the very heart of Christianity.
This week, perhaps while you were in line getting coffee or enjoy any number of things we Americans have taken for granted, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani had the heart to stand up before an Islamic court in Iran and defend his Christian faith. Pastor Yousef was told to recant his faith. Pastor Yousef refused.Pastor Yousef is now scheduled to be executed, as shariah law dictates he must be. The response from the Christian community online has been one mixed with revulsion and shock. Yet the governments of the world — and even some major Christian denominations — have been outrageously silent.Of course, some Islamists here in the United States would rather you not know about Pastor Yousef. In fact, they would rather you pay no attention to the man behind the Islamic Curtain.Consider that the Islamic Republic of Iran would threaten to kill and coerce to convert a Christian pastor.What would happen were the tables turned?In the Western tradition, “civis romanus sum” — I am a Roman citizen — used to be the three most terrifying words an ancient despot could hear. These words saved St. Paul from the judgment of an enraged centurion (Acts 22:27) as he demanded to be tried by a Roman court.In fact, so severe was the punishment against those who violated the rights of Roman citizens, that Acts records the commander of the Roman garrison “was afraid, after he knew that he [Paul] was a Roman, and because he had bound him.” (Acts 22:29)
In later years, when Muslim caliphs attempted to levy taxes on the Christian holy sites, Byzantine emperors would disproportionately raise armies and invade Muslim lands. Horrified caliphs wisely reconsidered and discontinued the tax… until the Turks crippled Byzantium at Manzikert in 1071 and the Arabs broke the power of Crusading armies in the 14th century.
This tradition of protecting members of the body politic extended not only to Christian Byzantium, but by the Austrian and Spanish Habsburgs, eclipsed in turn by the British Empire who made such a policy of protecting its citizens a hallmark of their Victorian-era world power.
The United States historically has insisted upon a similar tradition, whether it is protecting Americans against 19th century Barbary Pirates, to tackling Islamic terrorism in the modern day.
Today, the Pax Americana stands threatened by the powers of Islamic fanaticism among many others. For Christianity, the “body of Christ” remains threatened as it has been for centuries, and as Christ assured us it will be.
Yet the tyrannies of the world still prosper in the face of weakness. Why?
For those Christians living in America, we have the unique qualities of being both members of a great nation, as well as being believers in Christ. Christians around the world look to the wealth, prestige, and power of Christian Americans to come to the aid of Christians elsewhere — no different than if a wasp stung your left hand, than one would expect the right hand would swat at the pain shared by all.
Christians in America need to be that right hand for Pastor Yousef.
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani currently waits and prays for the sentence of death to be delivered at the hands of his Islamist captors. Pastor Yousef’s congregation of 400 is praying for that deliverance. Countless Christians across the world are praying right now for Pastor Yousef’s deliverance.
I am asking you to pray with me. Now.
Ask your children to pray. Ask friends and family to pray.
Pray for Pastor Yousef.
Pray for his wife and two young children. Pray for those Iranian Christians who are serving the Great Commission to spread the message of Christ to the very ends of the world. Pray for all those Christians under persecution in China,Venezuela, the Middle East, Russia, Nigeria, Sudan, and for those struggling against the threat and impact of shariah law in their neighborhoods.
Pray the faith Pastor Yousef so fervently shares is lived not only in Iran, but fearlessly in places where the Christian faith is rarely tested… and therefore rarely tried.
Pray for an awakening of the Holy Spirit here in America, so that our faith may be worthy of the name Christian. Pray for us and our churches so that we may fearlessly live the Gospel. Pray for the restoration of all things to Christ.
Above all, pray for the time when “I am a Christian” gives despots and dictators pause to consider the reaction of the Body of Christ.
Pastor Yousef — and the body of Christ — needs your prayers this weekend.