“…for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:16
Over the past few months, I’ve observed quite a lot of requests for intercession on behalf of the imprisoned Saeed Abendini at church, in social media, and on the web in general. The rallying cry seems to be “Save Saeed!”
Saeed is an Iranian-American pastor who has been imprisoned in Iran on charges related to his spreading of the Christian faith. It has been reported that his treatment in Iranian prison has been quite harsh and, understandably, his friends and family desire his release and return to the United States. The outraged and outcry over Saeed’s imprisonment has grown so loud that it has reached the ears of Barack Obama. President Obama has called for Saeed to be freed, however, this was after his administration was criticized for entering into nuclear talks with Iran without first demanding Saeed’s (who is a US Citizen) release. In any case, it is nearly universally recognized that Saeed’s life is in danger.
Christians should definitely pray for Saeed…but does he need to be saved? I don’t think so.
Those who need salvation are Saeed’s captors and his fellow prisoners. If Saeed were not in prison, would any of the people who surround him be exposed to a Christian witness? God willing, one of Saeed’s captors might ask him, “what must I do to be saved?” in the same way the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas. I wonder, in all the petitioning, politicking, and website-building, has anyone thought about this?
Many here in America seem to be outraged over what they see as a violation of Saeed’s human rights. In American culture, it is just plain unacceptable to be persecuted and imprisoned for peaceful religious expression. However, scripture does not teach that Christians should expect a lack of persecution or that Christians should expect to be able to exercise religious freedom. I appreciate the protections guaranteed by the US Constitution, but it is God on whom I truly depend for protection. Christians are ultimately citizens of His kingdom. As Paul told the Philippians, “our citizenship is in heaven.” America is not our ultimate protector; The Lord Jesus Christ is.
The Iranians have taken Saeed’s earthly freedom and they may take his earthy life. The Romans did as much to Paul. Saeed, like Paul, is due a heavenly reward. Surely Saeed knows that “just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.“
Those Christians who pray for Saeed’s release need not call on President Obama or any other earthly power to secure it. (President Obama, in my opinion, is in need of salvation himself.) When the early church prayed for an imprisoned Apostle Peter, he was not rescued by any government official but by an Angel of the Lord. Do not doubt that the Lord can provide the same rescue for Saeed…no government interference required.
Perhaps what American Christians need to be saved from is Freedom of Religion. In recent history, church participation has dwindled in religiously free America while it has exponentially increased in communist China. It seems that many Americans have used their Freedom of Religion to freely do nothing to advance the Kingdom of God.
Go share the gospel. That’s what Saeed was doing when he was aressted. If you get arrested while you are so doing, consider it an indication that you are doing a good job.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.
Allow me to borrow a phrase from our President…Let me be clear!
If I am ever imprisoned for any reason, I hope my friends, family, and countrymen do everything in their power to procure my legal release.