What Mariam Ibrahim Means

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News reports have gone back and forth all weekend about whether or not Sudan will release our sister in Christ, Mariam Yahya Ibrahim. What’s not up for dispute is that Mariam, who just gave birth in prison chains, is condemned to die for “apostasy,” that is violating Sharia law by becoming a Christian. She’s also charged with “adultery,” because her marriage to a Christian man isn’t recognized. As we pray for her, I’d like us to reflect on what we see in her.

Mariam’s husband tells the press that she refused, despite all she has been through, to renounce the name of Jesus. For her, her freedom, even her life, aren’t worth tossing aside her allegiance to the Lord Christ. In this, Mariam is a true daughter of Sarah. The Apostle Peter commends such as those who do not “fear anything that is frightening” (1 Pet. 3:7).

It’s not just that Mariam is displaying the sort of fearless faith Peter commends. It’s also that she’s displaying the sort of fearless faith Peter himself lacked, at least at first. Simon Peter, when faced with potential execution, denied even knowing his Lord. Jesus didn’t leave him there, of course, but found him hiding out in Galilee, and fueled in him the sort of heroic faith that was willing to face even the worst thing he could imagine: being bound and taken where he didn’t want to go (Jn. 21:18).

And that’s just the point.

Mariam is a living picture of Jesus keeping his promise, made to us at Caesarea Philippi. Jesus said that he would build his church, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. And sure enough. Nero Caesar couldn’t kill the church. Josef Stalin couldn’t kill the church. Even now, Sudanese tyrants and Chinese despots can’t eradicate this church.

When we see a heroine such as Mariam standing up for Jesus, even in chains, we are not simply seeing her. We are seeing the Spirit who blows where he wills, giving the kind of faith that fears not the one who can kill the body, the kind of faith that seeks first the kingdom of God.

Let’s keep praying for Mariam’s release and safety. Let’s keep pressuring the State Department to act. But let’s also remember to step back and thank God for the gospel to which she clings.

Mariam is not just fighting for her life. She’s fighting against hell itself. And how does she do it? She does it with the only weapons that work: the blood of the Lamb and the word of her testimony, for she loves not her life even unto death (Rev. 12:11).

Whatever the Sudanese authorities do, they won’t be able to stop Mariam from overcoming. Whatever their charges, she is justified before God. If they kill her, she is resurrected in Christ. They may terrorize her, but it seems this brave mother can hear another voice behind theirs, one that says, “Be not afraid.”

May we hear that voice, too.

Only when we see how lost we are, we can find our way again. Only when we bury what’s dead can we experience life again. Only when we lose our religion can we be amazed by grace again.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Editor in Chief of Christianity Today and is the author of the forthcoming book Losing Our Religion: An Altar Call for Evangelical America (Penguin Random House).