The Romans believed their empire rested on the concept of “Pax Deorum”, meaning “peace of the gods”. That is, if the Romans did right by all the gods, those deities would bring them peace and prosperity. When followers of Christ came along, this upset the balance of power Rome thought it had achieved. Christians claimed the pagan gods were demonic, and real peace only came through the truth of God’s Kingdom. This created a massive clash of cultures within the empire that Rome had never experienced before. If the Roman government allowed Christians to propagate their beliefs, even though they were model citizens, the gods would be angry, and they would withhold their favor from the Empire, and it’s people.
Usually, Rome embraced the cultures they conquered, allowing them to quietly assimilate their beliefs into Roman society. Even though Christians were peaceful, and obeyed the laws, they refused to acknowledge any other God but the God of Scripture. This became a huge problem for Rome, and it caused a massive division in the otherwise united empire that sprawled across the land. Thus, Christianity began to conquer the unconquerable Romans, by splitting the spiritual culture in half, and that created a multitude of problems for everyone.
Persecutors would give Christians the chance to go free if they would just acknowledge the Roman gods, but they refused to do so. They chose rather to die, than offer a pinch of incense, or say a few ritual words to a false god. This practice amazed the Romans, as they had only seen such unwavering bravery among their own soldiers. As a result, massive persecution arose against Christians all across the Roman Empire, but not because they believe in Christ. The Romans felt that any belief, even belief in Jesus, was fine. The persecution came because Christians refused to believe in anything BUT Jesus. They would not compromise the truth, and became the target of unspeakable torture.
Once the Romans realized Christians would never blend quietly into their culture, everything changed. Their very presence was viewed as a threat to the unity, peace and prosperity of the Empire. The “Pax Romana” or “Roman Peace” could not be possible as long as Christians were present. Rome had no fear of being defeated by the sword, or a vast, invading army. These could be conquered and grafted into the Empire. It’s greatest fear was that it would be unraveled by internal division. Who was this formidable, unconquerable enemy? Those who loved God, lived in peace, and loved others, but held unswervingly to the truth of Scripture.
The world loves it’s own. That’s what Jesus told his disciples over 2000 years ago, and it’s still true today. The world also, by it’s very nature, will always hate those who stand immovable, on biblical ground. Why? Because we bring conviction regarding sin, and that rocks the boat everyone else is enjoying. Regardless of the consequences, Christians are called to stand their ground, in love. Even when the world wants us to back their position for the sake of peace, we must still hold on to the truth. No matter how unpopular we may become, or how much we are accused of being “haters”, Biblical truth never changes, and neither can we.
Peace achieved by embracing everything, means people really don’t believe anything. There is no truth present when everyone, and every belief, is considered to be right. It’s impossible to have lasting peace, without truth being at the center of it. The universal standard of right and wrong that truth always holds dear, is what brings real peace. Thus, Christianity will always be at odds with any belief system, or empire, that does not line up with the Kingdom of God.
This is why we don’t rejoice and applaud, when a Hollywood star gets pregnant outside of marriage. They are thrilled and full of joy, but we are shamed and see disgrace by such behavior, and we must call it what it really is, fornication and immorality. The world hates us for this because we live by a higher moral standard that is set in place by Scripture. People in the world join themselves to same sex partners, and they applaud those who “come out of the closet” . We on the other hand, still love these people, but we call this behavior sexual sin, and believe our God can deliver anyone from this lifestyle of bondage. The results is always the same. The world hates us and calls us “hateful and prejudice”, simply because we hold to a higher standard that is grounded in 4000 years Biblical truth.
Just like it was in the Roman Empire, the clash of cultures is setting the world on fire once again. The set of ideals the world embraces to bring peace, is at odds with the truth Christians must live by. And, just like it was in ancient Rome, the roar of that clash means it’s not going to get any easier for those who really know, and love God. True Christianity, that which is grounded in the truth of God’s Word, will always come with a price. Every Christian will eventually have to stand and speak against the flood of immoral, and unethical standards the world holds in high esteem. When that day comes, the question is, will you pay the price for righteousness, or will you be swept up in the new “Pax Deorum” and “Pax Romana” the world offers to all?
Ephesians 6:13-15 says “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;” May the truth of God’s word strengthen you to confront in love, what is wrong, and not conform to the standard of this world. May the overcoming love of God strengthen you to speak the truth in a darkening world, and rescue those who hear it. May you go boldly into any dark night and shine with the light of God’s eternal Gospel when the clash of cultures comes your way.