Standing Strong Through the Storm
FORGIVE YOUR ENEMIES And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. Mark 11:25
Hatred of her enemies is something Takoosh Hovsepian, the wife of an Iranian pastor murdered in 1994 no longer has. She says: “I’ve learned a lesson at God’s University about how to love your enemies.”
As a teenager, Takoosh prayed that she might be allowed to marry a pastor, so that she could spend her life in the service of God. Her wish was fulfilled, but the way would not be easy.
Her husband, Pastor Haik Hovsepian, was forty-eight years old when one day he did not come home. After twelve days, it became apparent that he had been killed at the behest of the Iranian government. About that time, four other Iranian pastors were also murdered in a cowardly way. They refused to sign an official declaration that they would not evangelize among Muslims.
In Iran, ninety-eight percent of the population is Muslim. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in particular, the problems for Christians became increasingly great.
Takoosh says, “During the revolution, hundreds of people threatened to set fire to the churches, which fortunately did not happen. The Islamic government does not want Muslims to go to church and evangelism among them is forbidden.”
Pastor Hovsepian held important positions in the Iranian Church. On various occasions, he stated that he was willing to go to the utmost for his faith and for the church. His wife reflects, “Haik repeatedly said, ‘We don’t have to be afraid. We must trust in God.’ But in my heart, I was afraid. Haik was full of love for people, even for his Muslim neighbours. They were welcome at the church; they knew that he would help them even in times of difficulty.”
The day that Haik left to collect a friend from the airport and never came back is deeply engraved on the memory of the widow and her children. At the police station, the eldest son, Joseph, was only shown a photo of his father. According to the police, the body of Pastor Hovsepian had been found in an alleyway in Teheran.
Takoosh says, “I only had hatred in my heart, hatred for my enemies who had murdered Haik. I was not able to forgive them. I prayed with my lips, ‘God, give me the strength to forgive,’ but before I prayed, in my imagination I saw myself throwing mud at them. But one day a miracle happened. God taught me how I could forgive my enemies. I was asking for something which on the deepest level I did not want to ask for. But gradually, in a process of ups and downs which took months, God gave me the strength to pray more and more with my heart for those who had murdered my husband. God answered this prayer.
“Then I was no longer praying only with my lips, but from the depths of my heart. I had learned not only to trust in God and to lean on Him, but also how I can forgive my enemies.”
RESPONSE: Today I will forgive offences against me so God will forgive my sins.
PRAYER: Pray for many Christian brothers and sisters of the persecuted church who have difficulty forgiving those who hurt them or their family.