While Christians today are discussing the danger of a coming government that will persecute them relentlessly and the right is exploiting this fear to elect its candidates, Christians in the Roman Empire already lived this danger on a daily basis.
They were tortured, burned alive and thrown into the lions’ arenas. They were eaten alive and there was nothing left of their bodies even to be buried in a cemetery with dignity.
The persecution of the Roman Empire was total: political and religious.
However, there was not only Roman persecution. For religious reasons, non-Christian Jews persecuted Christian Jews and still stoked the Roman Empire against Christians. Non-Christian Jews saw themselves as a people much more chosen by God than Jesus Christ and Christian Jews. This wrong Jewish perception persists today.
The Christians’ reaction was to pray for the bloodthirsty Emperor Nero. The Apostle Paul said:
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4 ESV)
Paul did not curse the persecuting Romans and Jews. He didn’t curse Nero. In place of profanity, he encouraged Christians to pray for the cruel Emperor Nero and his salvation.
Paul could have this spiritual attitude because he was not just a nominal Christian. Through prayer and reading the Bible, he lived in deep spiritual friendship with Jesus.
Yet, if he were involved in political interests, he would curse Nero day and night. He would curse Jews who persecuted Christians.
The quality of those who do not know God is their potty mouth, full of the filth of their hearts. The quality of those who know God is their mouth of praise, prayer and preaching of the Gospel.
Today’s Christians are not tortured or eaten by lions and they curse everyone and do not pray for anyone. Christians in Paul’s day were tortured and eaten by lions, they did not curse anyone, but they prayed for everyone.
It was cursing, slandering and lying that the Russian communist dictator Lenin built the Soviet Union. It was with servants like Paul who did not curse, but prayed, praised and preached the Gospel that Jesus Christ expanded the Kingdom of God throughout the world — a kingdom that is bigger than the Roman Empire, bigger than the American Empire, bigger than Facebook, bigger than Twitter and bigger than Google.
I hope that the spiritual example that Paul left two thousand years ago, when he and many Christians were persecuted without cursing, will serve as a lesson for modern Christians, who neither pray nor read the Bible, but speak as many profanities and vulgarities as if they were more spiritual than Paul and even Jesus Christ.