Written by: Michael Anderson
In Romans 8:36, Paul quotes Psalm 44:22, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered”. He goes on in verse 37, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him Who loved us.” How providential that Paul writes this to the church which would soon be at the center of oppression.
On July 19th, AD 64, a fire broke out in Rome and burned for six days, causing terrible damage. Some believed Emperor Nero was to blame. So, in an effort to divert blame from himself, Roman historian, Tacitus records that, Nero found and tortured a group of christians until they confessed. Nero argued that the christians were trying to destroy the city. They were after all “a class hated for their abominations” (Tactius, Annals 15.44). Nero used this as justification to begin killing christians. Some were thrown to the dogs, others were crucified, and still others were burned at the stake to serve as lights for Nero’s parties.
But in the midst of all this oppression, in the face of that “hideous strength”, Christ wins. Nero went on to become a symbol for all that was corrupt and debased. While two of the martyrs whom Nero executed, Peter and Paul, would go on to be loved and revered. Christ wins and Nero loses. Rome would become the center from which the gospel message would go out. When Jesus commands His disciples to “go out and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), who would have thought that they would “go out” traveling on Roman roads? It should be no surprise that we love best those stories in which the underdog triumphs. After all, our Creator does too!