At the age of 8, when most boys are thinking about becoming policemen, doctors, engineers or astronauts, “Reza” was looking forward to the day when he could be a martyr for Allah. His innocent zeal came, no doubt, from devout Muslim family members—many were closely tied to the Iranian government, and much religious rhetoric was bantered about his home during Iran’s war with Iraq in the 1980s.
Reza’s love for the Islamic faith naturally fostered an interest in philosophy and theology in the following years, and upon graduation from university, a popular Iranian magazine hired him to fill a journalist position. Not surprisingly, his area of expertise was religious culture.
About a year into the job, a colleague told Reza about how Christianity seemed to be gaining a foothold in Iran. At the same time his editors, always looking to attract readers, told Reza to conduct a thorough investigative report about why many Iranians were changing their faith. “I was very eager to take on the project,” Reza admitted, “I was convinced that Christians were somehow tricking people into following their distorted faith.”
His initial efforts to penetrate a Christian network met with some difficulty, however, because Christians kept their activities underground for fear of persecution from the Iranian government. But one day Reza noticed a “God is love” sign on a female coworker’s desk. A Muslim wouldn’t put a sign like that on their desk, he reasoned, so perhaps she was a Christian. He sought ways to get to know her better.
His plan worked. Not only did she turn out to be a Christian, but she offered him a Bible and explained her faith to him. He played it cool to avert suspicion. And then it happened: he was invited to one of her church meetings, just as he had hoped.
Seeing the crowd of Christian converts gather inside the church, Reza’s heart convulsed with a mixture of disbelief, fear, anger and disappointment. Had all these people left our religion? he wondered. People sang about Jesus coming humbly to earth from heaven. The pastor even claimed that Jesus was God. Everything he heard that day conflicted with what he had learned growing up!
For months he continued to gather material for his magazine article at the weekly meetings, but he felt conflicted. His gravest concern was how these Christians were deceiving Muslims into abandoning their faith. He shared his research with a colleague, mocking the beliefs of the Christians he’d met. He even gave him the Bible he had been given months before, so his friend could see for himself how foolish its teachings were.
But just a few weeks later Reza’s coworker dropped a bombshell: he had given his life to Christ! Reza felt distraught—he was responsible for his friend renouncing his faith because he had given him that Bible! Now what would he do?
Piled on top of the guilt he felt about his friend, Reza began to face the conflict growing within his own heart—something he didn’t want to admit to. What did he really believe and why? He shuddered at the thought that his once-steadfast faith was wavering. His questions drove him back to the Bible—but not just academically this time. Then it hit him: he had it backwards, it was his own religion that was “tricking” people, not Christianity. He saw in the Gospel of John that God is love, and that He proved His love by coming to die for him.
Reza’s childhood resolve to be a martyr for Allah crumbled. At the next church meeting, Reza surrendered to God, repenting and committing his life to Jesus as Lord!
Reza eventually married, and he and his wife now serve in a Persian-speaking church near the border of Iran. Devoted Iranian Muslims continue to be baffled, as more and more of their disillusioned countrymen—after reading the Bible—flee Islam for Christ. Reza never did write that article.