Unchain me, please!
Pastor Hossein Soodmand and I held ministerial credentials with the same organization for many years. During the 80’s, Pastor Soodmand establish a thriving church in his native country of Iran. After much harassment by the Islamic government, Pastor Soodmand was arrested in 1990, and was tortured, placed in solitary confinement, and condemned to death.
A few weeks before being hanged, Pastor Soodmand was released from prison with instructions to leave the country. When his family asked Pastor Soodmand why he didn’t escape, he said that he was willing to “sacrifice my life for my sheep. My escape from these dangers would weaken the flock of God and discourage them. I don’t want to be a bad example to them, so I am ready to go to jail again, and, if necessary, even to give my life for them.” He was murdered by the government on December 3, 1990.
However, the Christian church in Iran is blossoming even though Believers face the same fate as Pastor Soodmand. The Pastor was imprisoned and murdered, but the Gospel of Christ continues to prosper.
In China, the government has placed severe restrictions on Christian house churches hoping to shut them down. But even as the Communist Party surveilles, persecutes, and imprisons Christians, the church has grown to over 260 million Believers, a 10% increase compared to last year.
Certainly, other nations of the world wish to oust Christians. Consider North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan. In the Middle Belt and northern regions of Nigeria alone, Christian schoolgirls are kidnapped, molested, and held for ransom by Islamic extremist groups like Boko Haram. Yet, there is an amazing revival of Believers in Nigeria, indeed all of Africa. Individuals can be imprisoned and murdered, but the Cause of Christ will not be bound.
In America, our chains are different. We may not be chained to the wall in prisons, but laws are being made to stifle freedom of religion. Laws that support abortion and same-sex marriage are designed to hush the Church and the full Gospel message. Laws against the voice of Christians in schools, the government, and in the marketplace, are calculated to silence Believers. These proxy chains of bondage are growing as dissidents are elected to powerful policy-making positions in the government.
But there is good news today. In 2 Timothy 2:9, Paul wrote this powerful message from prison, to comfort young Timothy and all Christians everywhere. He said, “I am chained like a criminal. But the Word of God CANNOT be chained!” It’s true! No government can muzzle the Holy Spirit. No world leader can shackle the message of Christ.
In a bit of Biblical irony, we read in Philippians 4:22 that there were “saints in Caesars [Nero] household!” Paul wrote in Philippians 1:14, “Most of the brothers having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear.”
May it be true in 2020.