Saeed Abedini is a U.S. citizen who lives in Idaho with his wife and two young children. He converted to Christianity from Islam in 2000 and became a U.S. citizen in 2010. Prior to moving to the U.S. he had been active in planting house churches in Iran. Last September he traveled to Iran to help start an orphanage and was arrested by the Iranian jihadist Revolutionary Guard. He was tortured, tried, convicted, and sentenced to eight years in Iran’s most brutal prison. And what was his crime? He was charged with undermining the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam. Is this an isolated case? No. Sadly, there are thousands of Christians imprisoned throughout the world for the crime of following Christ and sharing the Gospel with others. We find such persecution in Egypt, North Korea, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and many others. China maintains strict control over churches and those not registered and officially sanctioned are subject to arrest. The government detained over 700 Christians from unregistered churches in 2012. Thousands of Christians throughout the world understand clearly the words of the Apostle Paul, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22).
In the United States Christians often fail to contemplate the wonderful blessing of our religious freedom. We enjoy the freedom of worshipping God without interference from our government and we have the marvelous liberty of being able to share Christ with others. We can stand on a public sidewalk and pass out tracts without fear of being arrested and imprisoned, a blessing Christians in many countries can only dream of. On March 16 several men from our church walked the route of our local Saint Patrick's Day Parade passing out tracts. We were mere feet in front of the lead police car and policemen on bicycles were often right next to us. Not once did they interfere with our labors. Oh what blessed freedom! While our freedoms are under continued threat of being eroded, we enjoy great liberty today.
Such blessings carry great responsibility. Has God granted us such liberty without the expectation of us using the gift diligently? We must not squander our liberty. Our nation is on a downward spiral of moral decay. The only hope of our survival is the Gospel of Christ. Churches must not turn their eyes inward and forget their duty to the world. Healthy churches are those that maintain an emphasis on evangelism. Ernest Reisinger wrote, “The church that does not evangelize will fossilize, that is, dry up and become useless to Christ and to the world” (Today's Evangelism, p.xv). Our Lord commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”
When the Church was in its infancy persecution soon broke out in Jerusalem. Luke records that Christians had to flee the city and were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. What was their course of action? Did they go into hiding? Did they try to conceal their attachment to Christ? Did they keep the Gospel carefully hidden from others? Luke records, "Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). These were not the Apostles. Luke records that the Apostles remained in Jerusalem (Verse 1). These were the lay people! The word used for "preaching" here is not the word "kerusso," which designates the work of those called to the ministry of the Word, but "euaggelizo," which simply means, "to announce glad tidings" or "to bring good news." It is the labor of every Christian. Will Metzger writes, "In our world probably 99.9 percent of all Christians are not in the ministry. Unless everyone engages in evangelism--praying, initiating, and fervently speaking the gospel--not much will happen" (Tell the Truth, p.21). Pray that you might seize every opportunity share the good news of Jesus Christ. Do not squander your liberty!