The Fruit of Lacking a Martyr Theology
26 December 2013
In a few recent articles I have been sharing about a theology of suffering and martyrdom. If you have missed those articles, be sure to read Suffering, Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
Earlier this week I recounted the inspiring story of a woman who is taking a Biblical approach to the martyrdom of her husband — see Widow: "I Love and Forgive My Husband's Killers" for more details. In today's article, we take a look at the example of a wife who seems to be taking the opposite approach.
Saeed Abedini, the Iranian-American Christian pastor who has been imprisoned in Iran for the past year and a quarter. One such article which is typical of the rest is Wife of American pastor held in Iran blasts Obama administration for not doing enough to free him. Here are some excerpts:
Naghmeh Abedini, the wife of an American pastor imprisoned for his faith in Iran, said she was shocked and felt betrayed to learn the U.S. government had been conducting secret negotiations with Iran even as State Department officials told her they could do little to free her husband because the nations have no diplomatic relations.... Lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee panel heard the distraught wife detail her fears for her husband and the heartbreak she and their two children feel due to his absence. "His condition has worsened and the kids and I fear his life," she said, before holding up a photograph of her children on their first day of school. "Tears were streaming down my face as I got the kids ready for school with their father missing."Even though this is a very touching story, I can't help but feel that Mrs. Abedini is walking down the wrong path. Rather then embracing a martyr theology regarding her husband's imprisonment and likely death, she is looking to the American government for his deliverance. No wonder she is so disappointed and shocked! What does the government care about Saeed? No wonder she feels betrayed! But how can she feel betrayed unless she has misplaced and unreasonable expectations?
Suffering, Martyrdom, and Rewards in Heaven, so that she can understand what God says in the Bible about His purposes for suffering and martyrdom. It would completely change her outlook and responses.
Once you embrace a martyr theology, then suffering and martyrdom are seen to be blessings and victory rather than catastrophes and defeat. It is very likely that God is using Saeed's life and death in Iran to help accomplish His eternal purposes. Instead of fighting against that, we would do better to accept and embrace it, and cooperate with God instead of struggling against His methods. Mrs. Abedini's distraught nagging of the U.S. government is revealing her lack of understanding of God's ways and a lack of trust in His character.
Rather than fearing for his life and making herself and her kids the center of attention, she would be much better off accepting his death and teaching her kids about the important role their dad is fulfilling as one of God's glorious martyrs. Even though it's valid to pray for his release, I think it is much more important to pray that he will remain committed to Yeshua (Jesus, Isa) under torture, and that Saeed's life and death will be used by God to demonstrate His self-sacrificial love for the Iranian people.
Rather than signing petitions, writing congressmen, and protesting for human rights, followers of Yeshua around the globe would make much better use of their time and energy by asking God to send thousands MORE martyrs like Saeed to storm the gates of Hell so that those in bondage to Islam can be set free through the lives and deaths of these witnesses.
Enough wimpy whimpering about the poor suffering Christians! Yeshua promised that His followers would suffer persecution and death for His sake. This is what it means to be a Christian. So why are we so surprise? Why do we fight against it with human methods? When will we learn to see things through God's eyes and purposes rather than from our own selfish, human point of view? As I wrote in Crucified Again — What's the Big Deal? :
God has great and glorious plans for the suffering and potential martyrdom of Saeed Abedini. Of course we can pray for his release — and perhaps such a release would fit into God's strategy. But even more importantly, let's pray that Saeed remains steadfast and committed to Messiah under torture. Let's pray that through Saeed's witness in suffering and martyrdom, many Iranians will have their eyes opened to the truth of the Bible; that they will come to know Yeshua, receive His salvation, and escape an eternity in Hell.
Those who say, "It's a horrible catastrophe that Christians get killed by Muslims," are doing exactly the same as Peter when Yeshua told His followers that He was soon to be killed.
Peter took Yeshua aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Master!" he said. "This shall never happen to You!" Yeshua turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns."Yeshua's dramatic words clearly reveal the demonic origin of Peter's humanistic outlook, as well as the humanistic outlook of today's believers who say, regarding persecution and martyrdom: "This should never happen to Christians!" Was Yeshua talking to Peter, or to Satan? Probably both — Peter was saying the words, but it was ultimately Satan who was influencing his thoughts and worldview. So it is today with many who are called Christian.
Then Yeshua said to His disciples, "Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For I, the Son of Man, am going to come in My Father's glory with the angels, and then I will reward each person according to what they have done." (Matthew 16:22-27)
God has His concerns, and man has his merely human concerns. As Christians, we are supposed to be putting aside our human concerns, and make God's concerns our own. The apostle Paul said about his co-worker Timothy: "I have no one else like him.... For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Yeshua the Messiah." (Philippians 2:20a,21) Later, Paul wrote to Timothy, "Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Yeshua the Messiah. Soldiers don't get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please their commanding officer." (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
God had a great and glorious plan in the sufferings and death of Yeshua. Likewise, God has a great and glorious plan in the suffering and death of Christians at the hands of Muslims. Are we going to take God's view on this, which is revealed in the New Testament, or Satan's humanistic view, which most Christians today espouse, including this book Crucified Again? If God's view, then why make a big deal out of the persecution of Christians?
These goals are worth way more than the earthly comfort of Naghmeh and her children. They are worth way more than the earthly comfort of Saeed. If I could put words into his mouth, I think that Saeed would agree with me — see his own words in his letter from prison. Along with Messiah, Saeed "will see the fruit of his suffering and will be satisfied." (Isaiah 53:11).