Our Greatest Persecution...

posted by Jeffrey on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 at 9:36 AM


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This week is "When in Rome" week on the History Channel. Since I'm utterly fascinated by this era in history, I've been trying to catch some of the programs. Last night I watched Roman Vice, which is "...a story of epic debauchery, monstrous cruelty and breathtaking extravagance. Luxury made the Roman world go round. The quest for better food, bigger villas, more opulent baths and more thrilling entertainment drove Roman civilization forwards...". The show ended with an expose on Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus, who reigned from A.D. 54-A.D. 68, was the last emperor in the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and was one of the cruelest emperors Rome had ever known.

In A.D. 64, a great fire devastated the central section of the city of Rome and Nero needed someone to blame. There were a group of secretive and mysterious people who seemed to be the easiest scapegoats--what were they called? Christians. Nero is famous for his brutal persecution of the Christians. He fed them to wild animals in the Coliseum, used them as human torches in his gardens, and other horrific acts of cruelty. The Bible is mostly void of direct addresses of what was happening in the world outside of the Church, so let's gain some perspective. Nero ruled from A.D. 54-68 and the apostle Paul (who is responsible for writing much of the New Testament) ministered from A.D. 36-68. Paul was imprisoned in Rome under Nero twice (among other imprisonments) and then was finally executed under him in A.D. 68.

So when Paul writes to his spiritual son Timothy for the second time (which is the book of 2 Timothy) while imprisoned in Rome for the second time, and includes things like: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith..." and "...I was delivered from the lion's mouth (literally). The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory for ever and ever. Amen", he does so as a man who faces a brutal execution in the near future, but somehow keeps his faith in Christ!

As a result of the Christians refusal to recant their faith in Christ even in the face of a brutal and agonizing death, many Romans (Gentiles) actually converted to Christianity!!! So to Nero, I thank you for persecuting and martyring the fathers of our faith that the Kingdom of God might spread. History has been consistent in this scenario--the greater the persecution of Christians, the more that people are inspired to come into relationship with Christ. And so it is reluctantly that I say this...perhaps what the Church in the western world needs is another great persecution...

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