This Sunday is Easter. I will spend much of it thinking about traffic flow, lobby control, ushers, greeters, and refreshments as part of my role as a pastor at church of 3000+ people.
This Sunday is Easter. Saeed Abedini will spend it in prison as part of his role as a pastor in Iran. He will spend it missing his family, dreaming of freedom (possibly 8 more years), and suffering from the brutal physical beatings he endures on a regular basis.
Saeed embodies the heart of Easter in ways that I can only imagine.
Easter is a triumph that can only be born through the labor pains of Good Friday. Easter is the sad things becoming untrue, the darkness being turned to light, death evaporating into life. Easter is victory, and anyone who competes as an athlete understands that victory is never fully appreciated until one has tasted defeat.
Saeed has tasted defeat. He has been imprisoned for his faith in one of Iran’s harshest prisons, endured malnourishment, regular beatings from both guards and fellow inmates, isolation from his family, and faces 8 long years of more of the same.
Saeed has tasted defeat, but his hope refuses to be crushed.
While we argue about ‘equals’ pictures on Facebook he is suffering beatings so severe that he can’t recognize his own face: “My hair was shaven, under my eyes were swollen three times what they should have been, my face was swollen, and my beard had grown.”
While we’re thinking of parking issues, getting a seat at church, and dinner plans, Saeed is thinking of… forgiveness. And so he writes from prison:
Maybe you ask, what is the secret of being so happy in such a hard situation?
Forgiveness. When we forgive, we become free and we become messengers of peace and reconciliation and goodness. And whoever stings us, we can take into our embrace and love them…
I forgave the prison doctor who did not listen to me and did not give me the medication that I needed. I forgave the interrogator who beat me. Every day when I would see the interrogator and for the last time when I saw him, I forgave him. I smiled at him and with respect shook his hand and I said my goodbye. The minute I forgave them and loved them, that second I was filled with unspeakable joy.
Love is as strong as death.
We have to get rid of the poison in our body because if we don’t, we will die. We have to …allow the band-aid of love and goodness to replace the empty place of the wound. So that we are not a tool of darkness and revenge, but that we can be light and love and a vessel of forgiveness and we can be transformed in the process.
Easter is a celebration born from the ashes of forgiveness.
Love. Is. Stronger. Than. Death.
But will we look up from our distracted lives long enough to embody it?