The History of Christianity #28
Our Scripture passage today is Matthew 5:12 which reads: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
Our quote today is from Tertullian. He said: "Only without the sword can the Christian wage war: the Lord has abolished the sword."
Today, we are discussing "Persecution in the Second Century" (Part 4) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez's fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
Today's subject is Persecution Under Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius, who became emperor in 161 AD, possessed one of the most enlightened minds of his age. He was not, like Nero and perhaps Domitian, enamored with power and vainglory. On the contrary, he was a refined man who left behind a collection of Meditations, written for his private use, which are literary masterpieces of the time. He expresses some of the ideals with which he tried to rule his vast empire:
Think constantly, both as a Roman and as a man, to do the task before you with perfect and simple dignity, and with kindness, freedom, and justice. Try to forget everything else. And you will be able to do so if you undertake every action in your life as if it were the last, leaving aside all negligence and the opposition of passion to the dictates of reason, and leaving aside also all hypocrisy, egotism, and rebelliousness against your own lot.
Under such an emperor, it could be expected that Christians would enjoy a period of relative peace. And yet, the same emperor who expressed such lofty ideals regarding government also ordered that Christians be persecuted....
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