Persecution And Hope (Part One)

Persecution And Hope (Part One)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56-120) wrote two secular historical works describing the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, and Gabba, Otho, Vespasian, and Vitellius (Annals and Histories).
 
He was the son-in-law of Agricola, the Roman General responsible for Roman expansion throughout Europe, especially northern Britain. He was not a Christian by any means, but a patriotic Roman with a family heritage tied to its conquests.
 
In the following excerpt, Tacitus mentions Jesus (referred to as Christus) and details the persecution of early Christians. I have abbreviated some of the excerpt (ellipsis), given contextual explanation (brackets), and added emphasis (bolded text). The information in his writings is fascinating, but I found the following to be shareable.
 
“…The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods [because of the burning of Rome], and recourse was had to the Sibylline books… But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order.
 
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition [of resurrection], thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome…
 
Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
 
Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”
 
Annals of Tacitus Book XV
THE DOG AT CHURCH

THE DOG AT CHURCH

Neal Pollard

The interesting visitor at our devotional last night, a chocolate lab named Bear that someone dropped off with Aaron and Kylee Melton as she dealt with a personal crisis, reminded me of another “dog at church” story from my youth.  Back in the mid-’70s, when my dad was the preacher at the Rockmart, Georgia, church of Christ, there was a Collie dog that apparently knew our schedule of services.  Faithfully, rain or shine, summer or winter, she would be out on the front steps greeting all the members and visitors.  She wasn’t allowed inside the building, but she’d dutifully lay on those steps until we were finished with services. Then, she would cheerfully bid us all goodbye.  When the building was locked up and everyone had left, this convicted canine would make her way back home.  I don’t know how many years this went on for, but the notoriety of the “church of Christ” dog was seemingly known throughout the community.

One Sunday, my dad preached a sermon about this dog.  His application was brilliant and uncanny.  She was always “at church,” no matter what.  Surely she was mistreated or had a cross word hurled at her at some point, since, incredibly, not everyone is a dog person. Her faithful presence was a great example to the community.  She greeted everyone freely, not just a select few. She didn’t seem to distinguish by age, gender, race, or income status. If she was not there, as it apparently was on an occasion or two, everyone noticed and was concerned. He probably said more, but that I remember this much nearly 40 years later indicates how impressive the object lesson was.

Paul told the Colossian Christians that their faith and love was renowned and well-reported (Col. 1:4). The Jerusalem church very quickly had favor among all the people (Acts 2:47). The Thessalonians were a notable example throughout their region of the world (1 Th. 1:7).  As we line up our goals and resolutions for this new year, why not determine, as the whole body and as individual members of it, to make that clear and deep an impression on the people in our lives and those who chance to encounter us.  Dogs are renowned for their faithfulness.  So should Christians be (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2).