Yousef Nadarkhani lives under a sentence of death. Iran plans to execute him for the crime of being a Christian pastor. It all began in 2009 when Nadarkhani objected to his children being indoctrinated into Islam in the school they were required to attend. He was standing for parental rights as well as the Christian faith.
His outspoken views led to his arrest and the eventual death penalty sentence. This has created a furor in what could be called the remnant of the civilized world. In a rare moment of moral clarity, even the Obama administration has spoken against this unjust sentence. Republicans and Democrats alike unite in admonishing the Iranian regime and calling for Nadarkhani’s release.
Iran is under some pressure, therefore, to review the case. At one point this past week, his lawyer believed there was a 95% chance that the verdict would be overturned. Then, amazingly, the Iranian government changed its tactics—no, Nadarkhani was not being sentenced to death for being a Christian; rather, it was because he had raped someone and even ran a brothel.
That one doesn’t survive the laugh test. It is so transparently false that no one is buying it. These false accusations are reminiscent of the Stalin Show Trials of the 1930s or how Hitler got rid of his enemies: concoct a fantastic story without a shred of evidence and use it to advance the goals of the regime.
What’s going to happen to Pastor Nadarkhani? No one knows for sure yet, but it doesn’t look hopeful. In the midst of this, though, one thing is crystal clear—this man is a model of Christian steadfastness and devotion to the One who saved him from sin. His refusal to deny his Savior is a testimony to the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit. His life—and perhaps his death—will serve as a sobering reminder to Western Christians that we are not simply playing a religious game. We are eternal beings with either heaven or hell awaiting us, and we must answer the call to be faithful, even unto death.
Think of Yousef Nadarkhani; pray for him and for his family. Let his life be an inspiration to those of us who claim the name of Christ.