Mar 14, 2019
Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-46,
43 You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax gatherers do the same?
Jesus introduced a new concept of love that was hardly taught in his day. In Latin terms, Jesus was teaching caritas, while the Romans were practicing liberalitas. The difference is that caritas (charity) does not expect anything in return, whereas liberalitas was a gift (often at a temple) to curry favor with the gods.
Hence, “if you love those who love you… do not even the tax gatherers do the same?”
To practice caritas, Jesus said, is to “be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” In Hebrew terms, a “son” was one who imitated another or who resembled his “father.” Hence, we see expressions such as children of wisdom, sons of thunder, children of the devil, and sons of God. In this case, if we do good to those who persecute us or hate us, we are children of our heavenly Father, who does the same with His enemies by giving sun and rain to evil men as well as to the good.
This concept was seldom taught either by Romans or Rabbis. In fact, Jesus tells us that his audience had been taught to “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Jesus came with a radically different message. To an average Jew, it was good to hate Romans and to despise all non-Jews. But Jesus healed them and blessed them, and the apostles wrote of these things in their gospels to transmit these vital teachings to future generations.
So Christians did not limit their charity to church members or even to believers in general. They assisted needy pagans as well. Such actions defied Roman logic. Stoicism thought that associating with the weak, the poor, and the oppressed was beneath them and disrespectful.
The Roman philosopher Plautus (254-184 B.C.) argued, “You do a beggar bad service by giving him food and drink; you lose what you give and prolong his life for more misery.” (How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt, p. 129).
Christianity taught that it was virtuous. The Christian idea of compassion toward strangers and outsiders was not totally unknown in Roman and Greek culture, but it was relatively rare. With Christianity, it was a basic tenet and a way of life.
The Spectacles (Games)
For 600 years the Romans watched gladiators kill fight each other to the death. These games were very popular, and the people themselves voted with their thumbs up or down to decide whether someone ought to be killed or spared. Roman culture did not recognize the intrinsic value of human life but measured its value according to its contribution to the state itself. A gladiator had entertainment value, much like a modern movie.
It took Christianity to change this. Christians were forbidden to attend these murderous spectacles, as they were called, and the Romans considered this to be hate speech. In the end, the Christian Emperor Theodosius (378-395) ended this bloodshed in the East, and his son Honorius ended them in the West a few years later (404).
Earlier, Constantine had ended crucifixion as a means of execution. He also outlawed the practice of branding slaves. His son, Constantius (337-361) segregated male and female prisoners in order to spare the women from daily rape. And, of course, wherever Christianity influenced cultures, they put an end to human sacrifice.
Christians also introduced hospitals to care for the sick, orphanages to care for the fatherless, and charity to care for the aged. These were Christian innovations in an otherwise uncaring world. Roman and Greek culture did not have the compassion necessary to adopt such practices.
Changes in Morality
Immorality was rampant in Roman and Greek culture, and their religious practices did nothing to promote moral virtue. Pagan gods and goddesses were just immortal sinners having a full array of human vices, petty jealousies, and murderous plots. The gods may have made men desire their power and immortality, but the gods set no example of morality for the people.
Adultery and fornication were common, along with homosexual relations, pedophilia, and bestiality. The problem became so bad that even Augustus Caesar passed a law against adultery in 18 B.C., which had little or no effect. Once a society is addicted to sin, laws can no longer restrain it. Only a change of heart can provide the solution—something that Christianity did indeed have to offer.
To the Romans, a woman committed adultery if she had sexual relations with any other man. However, a man committed adultery only if he had relations with a married woman. Even then, he did not commit an offense against his own wife but was charged with violating the property rights of the other husband. Many women thus registered with the temples as temple prostitutes in order to avoid the charge of adultery. By doing so, she became “public property,” no longer exclusively the property of her husband.
Pedophilia was an accepted practice among the Romans, as seen clearly in their literature, philosophies, and artwork. Many of the emperors practiced it openly, making it a fixture of Roman culture.
The Apostle Paul spoke against such immorality, saying in Romans 1:26, 27,
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions, for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the women and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
His words were considered to be hate speech in his day, and the world is fast returning to that condition. A sinner’s conscience is pricked when his sin is identified, and he is given the opportunity to repent or to become angry. But Paul had obtained his moral position from the law of God in Leviticus 18:22,
22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
The Romans, like many other societies, also degraded themselves with bestiality, which runs counter to the law of God (Exodus 22:19). All of these pagan practices degrade the marriage relationship and prevent men and women from enjoying the blessings of the abundant life that God has ordained for all of us. Whatever pleasure one derives from lawless sexual freedom ultimately brings them into bondage and death.
Roman culture changed to the extent that Christianity influenced it. Unfortunately, the church itself began to lose its own moral standard in later centuries. Church leaders, including many popes, often led the way into immorality, and their example brought degradation back from obscurity. The early tenth century came to be known as the Golden Age of Pornocracy, due to the debauchery in Rome and in the Vatican itself.
The Protestant Reformation brought a measure of relief, beginning in the 1500’s, and this influence is still felt to this day. However, in the past century of captivity to Mystery Babylon, there has been a concerted effort to transform Christian culture back to the days of pagan Rome and Greece. Much of the dignity of marriage, family, and morality in general has been lost, and if this continues, it will soon be against the law to criticize immorality. They will call it “hate speech,” much the same as in the first century.
The good news is that our captivity is coming to an end. Those who have been faithful to God and to His law will be leaders in the age to come. Babylonian immorality has served to test God’s people to see who is worthy.
So once again, we are faced with the same choice that Moses gave to Israel. Not only are we asked to choose life but we are also asked to choose love—love that is defined by Scripture, rather than the counterfeit and fake love that the world offers. True love brings life and happiness. Fake love leads ultimately to death, bondage, and sorrow.