My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 10-18-2021

Have you ever heard the name “Caligula”?  What about the name “Nero”?  Both were emperors of Rome ruling at different times.  The first one ruled 3 years, 10 months, and 6 days before he was murdered by his soldiers.  The second one ruled the Roman Empire for 13 years, 7 months, and 27 days.  He committed suicide.  Both were typical of some who ruled Rome.  Nero burned off a section of Rome to rebuilt it but blamed the fire upon Christians.  Caligula never favored Christianity and thankfully his rule was shorter.  What both have in common was their detest for followers of Christ.

Despite the concern individuals had in being arrested because they were Jesus followers, the movement grew during both men’s reign.  When Paul spoke before Festus, he stated he had not been offensive against Caesar (Acts 25:9-11).  In Peter’s letter he encouraged saints to submit to the “ordinances” (authority) of the king (emperor) and to “honor” him (1 Peter 2:13, 17).  Jesus told his disciples that if a Roman soldier commanded the disciple to carry his burden one mile, double that.  Pay your taxes.  Love your enemies.  Sadly, not all soldiers were like Cornelius (Acts 10).  Neither Caligula nor Nero were as favorable to Christianity as Constantine later was in 323.

During the early reign of the first two Caesars mentioned, Christians were imprisoned, beaten, murdered, torn to pieces by lions to entertain a pagan audience, were soaked in oil and set afire to serve as streetlamps, and were considered as atheists because they would not respect nor worship the popular idols of their day.  They faced that kind of society which openly and without censure hated, abused, and destroyed them.  In the face of those facts, Paul wanted Jesus followers to respect or honor the ones who spewed that hate?  Paul did not criticize the State’s offensive actions.  Peter added fuel to the fire by commanded Christians to submit and honor the king rather than fight to end Rome’s inhumanity?  Submit and honor the emperor appears more like compromise and consent than standing up for what is right.  If you were living in the first century and some of your immediate family were in Roman hands, with some already being murdered, would you raise a white flag of surrender or a battle flag to revolt?  Making the true choice when the right one is not easy to understand can make the correct decision difficult.

Members of the church who became soldiers and fought in WW I were outcast and thought to be murderers by members they knew and loved.  If they had been or became preachers afterwards, some congregations refused to invite them to speak.  During WW II members who served were given some slack, but some came home with a vision of horror which they were part of.  Some continued to debate whether a Christian who killed the enemy, could serve as an elder, deacon, preacher, or Bible class teacher afterwards.  That attitude continues to dwell with some of today’s Christians who went off to war.  Despite how much one does in order to pay back for the lives he took, the guilt, though deeply hidden, remains.  Perhaps those questions would never have seen the light of day if Paul and Peter had only said “Sic-em.”  Life does not always go as we would have it travel.

The past remains yesterday and makes it its residence.  Efforts made to change it are usually unsuccessful.  Thank God for His grace, mercy, and forgiveness today.  We are all sinners.  We all have our yesterdays.  Jesus came to forgive.  Man’s problem is that he knows Jesus forgives him and he accepts that fact.  That is not the problem.  The problem is that man refuses to forgive himself and wonders why Jesus does.  The Gospel is “good news.”  Understanding that “good” part is better!  Even if you have raised the wrong flag(s) in the past, you can change your today and your future.  Jesus is there to give you the assistance needed!