Persecution of Christians Ancient Rome
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If one was to look back through history, they would find that it is littered with events that seem so improbable as to be impossible. Had one asked anyone what the likelihood was of something happening, they would have laughed that someone thought there was potential for it at all. Despite the odds, however, it happened anyway. It is moments like those that show that God is still at work in the world. His hand is always guiding history and ensuring that the world continues moving along according to His plan. Here are 6 moments in Christian history that seem too amazing to be true.

The Conversion of Paul

Perhaps one of the most improbable moments in Christian history is one of its earliest memories. The religion was so new at this point that it was still being regarded as a breakaway sect of Judaism, and the word “Christian” may not have even existed. 

For most of its early years, Christianity faced severe persecution. Almost from the moment Christ rose, Christians found friends and family members treating them like enemies and people in power working to exterminate them. One of those first Christian killers was a Pharisee from Tarsus named Saul. He was zealous in his persecution and was willing to chase Christians from city to city in order to arrest them. He was as much of an enemy of the faith as it was possible for a man to be. While on the road to Damascus, however, he was knocked from his horse and blinded by a bright light that asked him one of the most famous questions in Christian history. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 

Following his encounter with Christ, Saul became known as Paul and converted to Christianity. He went on to write the famous Epistles of Paul and was essential in both shaping and growing the faith. His conversion was one of the most important moments in Christian history, and it was arguably one of the least expected.

The Faithful Keep the Faith

Rome is infamous even today for turning cruelty into an art form and murder into entertainment. No depiction of ancient Rome, after all, is complete without the gladiatorial battles in the Colosseum and some mention of the empire’s horrific punishments. Some emperors were harsher than others, but Nero took things to a new level. The punishments Nero heaped on any Christian he could catch were so extreme that even other Romans were horrified. The same people who saw crucifixion and blood sports as perfectly good entertainment were moved to pity by what the Christians suffered. 

Despite the almost unimaginable agony Christians would face if caught, Christianity survived and even grew during this period of Christian persecution. Many people would have given in, but the early church stayed true to Christ and truly earned the moniker “the faithful.”

The Battle of Milvian Bridge

After centuries of persecution, no one expected the Roman Empire to suddenly make an abrupt about-face in its treatment of Christianity. That, however, is exactly what happened following the Battle of Milvian Bridge. 

In A.D. 312, Flavius Valerius Constantinus battled Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge. The two men were warring over nothing less than who would control the entirety of the Roman Empire. The night before the battle, Consantinus dreamed that he was told to mark the sign of the then little-known Christian God on his soldier’s shields. Constantinus ordered his soldiers to do so, and promised this strange new God that he would convert to this odd faith if he was victorious in battle. Constantinus won the battle and fulfilled his promise. The impossible had occurred. Rome had a Christian emperor. 

Constantinus would go on to be known as Constantine the Great, and he would contribute greatly to the assimilation of Christian doctrine. The First Council of Nicaea was convened on his orders, and it would produce the Nicaean Creed that is still used today.

Miracle at Dunkirk

The “Miracle of Dunkirk” was just that, miraculous. In May 1940, Adolf Hitler unleashed his troops against France and Belgium. The Allied troops in the Nazi’s path were surrounded by the Germans on three sides with the sea behind them, and rescue would not reach them in time. As Prime Minister Winston Churchill was preparing himself to deliver the news that more than 300,000 soldiers had been captured or killed, King George VI called for a National Day of Prayer. The British people devoted themselves entirely to prayer for the day. Congregations swelled and queues formed outside churches. While the nation prayed, the military decided to evacuate as many soldiers as they could before the Germans arrived. Unable to field enough military ships to carry all the endangered troops, a call went out asking for the aid of any vessel willing to cross the English Channel and assist in saving the trapped men. More than 800 vessels answered the call.

As just about everything seaworthy in England raced back and forth across the Channel, Hitler called his troops to a halt. For three days, Nazi tanks and soldiers stood idly by as the Allies frantically evacuated their men. To this day, no one knows why Hitler suddenly called a halt to his advance when victory was in his grasp. The German generals themselves were clueless as to why they were not allowed to chase down and obliterate the Allies. Yet because of their inaction, the Allied cause survived.

Patton’s Prayer

General Patton is not the sort of person one normally pictures when they think of a Christian. He was an open warmonger and known for his filthy mouth. That said, when Patton prayed, God listened. 

The Battle of the Bulge was the single bloodiest battle in American history. It took place in the Belgian town of Bastogne where 12,000 American were encircled and besieged by desperate German forces. Patton wanted to break through the German lines and rescue the Allied soldiers, but was stymied by horrible weather. When swearing at the clouds failed to convince the weather to change, Patton summoned Third Army Chaplain Colonel James O’Neill and told him to draft a prayer that would break up the weather and allow Patton to rescue the trapped Americans. O’Neill obliged, and Patton had the prayer distributed to his men on 250,000 wallet-sized cards. Shortly thereafter, the weather abruptly cleared and allowed the Third Army to reinforce their besieged comrades. 

Poland’s Papal Rebellion

Communism hates religion. Various communist regimes have gone to great lengths to force a purely atheistic society down their people’s throats, including Mao’s cold-blooded slaughter of religious Chinese. The most famous communist society, the Soviet Union, was not quite as swift to bathe in the blood of its own people, but religion was still deeply unwelcome. As such, when Pope John Paul II visited Poland in 1979, communist officials did their best to discourage people from attending his speeches. The millions of Catholics in Poland revolted. They turned out to see him by the millions. The communist officials could have had those attending arrested, disappear or be killed. Despite that, more than a million Poles chanted “We want God! We want God! We want God!” The impossible spiritual rebellion of an oppressed people has been called “one of the greatest spiritual moments of the 20th century, maybe the greatest.” 

In a frantic effort to do damage control, communist officials tried to cancel the Mass Pope John Paul II was set to say in Blonie Field. Once again, Poles threw off their oppressor’s yokes. Nearly three million people attended the Mass and made it very clear that Christianity would survive communism the same way it had survived Rome.

Christian history is filled with moments and events that were, quite frankly, impossible. Yet, they happened anyway. Despite the best efforts of individuals, governments and regimes, God continued to guide His people, and the faithful continued to practice their faith. Christ defied death itself on Easter. Why would it come as a surprise that His followers stubbornly continue to survive?
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