Loving Our Enemies

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you Matthew 5:44

In the face of terrorism, hatred and prejudice, how should we as God’s people respond? Jesus not only left us crystal clear orders about dealing with enemies, He also carried out to His final breath what He asked us to do. Though it is tempting to react with justifiable anger to the atrocities of ISIS, Boko Haram and Hamas, Jesus demanded for us to take a different course. That course change will never come unless we can recognize for a moment the truth that Alexander Solzhenitsyn described ” …the line between good and evil passes, not through states nor between classes,nor between political parties either but right through every human heart…”Graphic-wooden-cross-wallpaper-christian-wallpapers-and-backgrounds

We consider the world divided between two classes of people, “Good and evil” rather than a single group of fallen men and women

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us Romans 5:8

So how can we follow Jesus in this dangerous modern world? Not long after September 11th 2001, I was asked by a Muslim what I felt about Muslim terrorists. She was a little surprised when I told her that Jesus had left us the command to Love our enemies.

Here are three instructions Jesus gave to take on the evil that surrounds us today exactly as it surrounded Him as He was nailed to the cross. He showed us that it was not to be our own strength, weapons or wisdom, but with words, actions and prayer.

Bless them that curse you – Jesus told us, then during His last hours He turned to the thief and told Him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Yes, the thief was repentant, but he hadn’t started out that way at all. In fact the Bible is clear that at first, both of the thieves hurled abuse at Christ. In return Jesus offered blessing though only one received it.

Do good to them that hate you-  goes way beyond our words. The actions of Jesus were a choice. As Peter pulled out a sword to defend Him, Jesus told him that legions of angels stood ready to rescue but that was not His choice. Jesus freely gave himself on the cross in the very face of terrorism. He trusted himself to the Father and in doing good defeated sin

Pray for them which despitefully use you-  moves on to the realm of asking God to now do for our enemies more than we can do. Before Jesus drew His last breath He called out in prayer,  “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”…Luke 23:34

The secular world will never get it. The enemies of our faith cannot understand this. Often we ourselves miss the opportunity the opposition has given us. Today is still the day that the Lord has made. This is not a chapter of history that has somehow spun out of God’s control. Yes, the church is suffering in Syria and Christians are being slaughtered by the thousands in Nigeria. Yes, the government of Iran continues to imprison pastors and church leaders but it is not a sign of their power, but rather of their weakness. Remember how they crucified our Lord, but He prayed for their forgiveness. They decapitated Paul, but He established the foundations of the western church. They exiled John, but from the prison-Island of Patmos He sent a message of hope. God is still and will always be in on the throne. When our day comes to stand and speak for God by our life,never allow fear, bitterness or anger to rule us. Instead when trouble comes to our door let’s see it as our chance to obey Jesus, love our enemies and overcome evil with good!

Christmas Letter from Iran

Pastor Saeed

Rajai Shahr Prison 2014

Merry Christmas!

These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas season very hard, cold and shattering for me. It appears that I am alone with no one left beside me. These cold and brittle conditions have made me wonder why God chose the hardest time of the year to become flesh and why He came to the earth in the weakest human condition (as a baby). Why did God choose the hardest place to be born in the cold weather? Why did God choose to be born in a manger in a stable, which is very cold, filthy and unsanitary with an unpleasant smell? Why did the birth have to be in such a way that it was not only hard physically, but also socially? It must have brought such shame for Mary and her fiancé that she was pregnant before marriage in the religious society of that time.

Dear sisters and brothers, the fact of the Gospel is that it is not only the story of Jesus, but it is the key of how we are to live and serve like Jesus. Today we like Him should come out of our safe comfort zone in order to proclaim the Word of Life and Salvation though faith in Jesus Christ and the penalty of sin that He paid on the cross and to proclaim His resurrection. We should be able to tolerate the cold, the difficulties and the shame in order to serve God. We should be able to enter into the pain of the cold dark world. Then we are able to give the fiery love of Christ to the cold wintery manger of those who are spiritually dead. It might be necessary to come out of the comfort of our lives and leave the loving embrace of our family to enter the manger of the lives of others, such as it has been for me for the third consecutive Christmas. It may be that we will be called fools and traitors and face many difficulties, but we should crucify our will and wishes even more until the world hears and tastes the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas means that God came so that He would enter your hearts today and transform your lives and to replace your pain with indescribable joy. Christmas is the manifestation of the radiant brightness of the Glory of God in the birth of a child named Emmanuel, which means God is with us. Christmas is the day that the heat of the life-giving fire of God’s love shone in the dark cold wintry frozen hearts and burst forth in this deadly wicked world. The same way that the heat from the earth’s core melts the hard stones in itself and produces lava, the fiery love of God, Jesus Christ, through the virgin Mary’s womb came to earth on Christmas to melt the hard heart of sin and wickedness of the world and removes them from our life. In the same process, the work of the Holy Spirit is a fiery rain of God’s Holiness and Mercy that flows into our body, soul and spirit and brings the light of Christ into us and through us making this dark, cold, wintry world into radiant burning brightness. He is turning our world into a world full of peace, joy, and love that is so different than the dark, cold, and wintry world that we used to live in. Hallelujah!

So this Christmas let the lava-like love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same lava love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.

Pastor Saeed Abedini

Soaking in the lava love of Christ

Forgiveness

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In the face of a tidal wave of Islamic terrorism, hate, murder and fearfulness how is the Christian to stand today? When the mind rebels against unimaginable horror and the continual trauma of war, bloodshed and hopelessness how can the church give the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ? In the news we read day after day of the happenings in Iran, where our brother Abedini has now been imprisoned for two years, to Syria where yet another hostage has been murdered, to South Sudan where tens of thousands are dying uncounted in the latest political bloodletting. How can we as individuals Christians make any difference at all?

When Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” Matthew 5:43-44,

it sounds as if he has just finished listening to the most recent CNN report. He knew that we would face all kinds of trouble, because in fact Jesus faced those exact same troubles in his day. His own neighbors had a plan to throw him off a cliff and the religious authorities were constantly looking for ways to have him arrested. After Jesus taught that He was the Light of the World,  they were ready to stone Him. But in spite of all these things Jesus understood the secret of the power of forgiveness. On the day He was crucified Jesus looked down from the cross to see only one of the twelve disciples with His mother and a few of the other women.  Where were the five thousand who had been fed? Where were the hundreds who had been healed? Where were even His own brothers and sisters? Jesus was abandoned and in that moment of disgrace, humiliation and suffering He unleashed the most powerful weapon in Heaven’s arsenal.  While horribly nailed to the cross Jesus chose a new path,

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  And they divided His garments and cast lots.  Luke 23:34

With those eleven simple words, Jesus unlocked the door of Salvation for anyone who heard Him or who heard His message to come. There is no hopeless nation, tribe or tongue that cannot be won through the power of His forgiveness. So let’s follow the advice of that converted terrorist named Saul of Tarsus (whom we today call Saint Paul)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good Romans 12:21

Praying for Pastor Saeed

We need to continue to remember the plight of our brother, Pastor Saeed Abedini. This link is the latest update from his wife and concerning her speech to the UN Human Rights Commission

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2013/06/03/serving-as-voice-at-un-for-my-imprisoned-husband-pastor-saeed-abedini/