Tuesday, March 15, 2011

For the Romans

I must admit, I'm not usually one who is prone to liking stories of bloody battles and brutal deaths.  I tend to gravitate more toward love stories, silly stories, and/or pretty much anything that ends in "happily ever after."  Call me crazy -- call me a girl.  But then again, I know not all girls love "happily ever after" stories, so I won't categorize us all in that way.

Nonetheless, this semester I am taking a course that basically outlines the foundations of the Roman Empire, which let me assure you includes many bloody battles and brutal deaths.  Despite my preconceived negative notions of gory histories, I have not only enjoyed every class but have learned a great deal about not only the Roman Empire but life in general.  One of the most lasting impressions the Romans have made on me thus far in studying their history, however, is what made them victorious.

The Romans became a great superpower because they met war with victory.

In the Second Punic War between the Romans and the Carthaginians, the Carthaginians were under the command of the great warrior Hannibal.  Hannibal was an excellent commander.  The warriors under his command were loyal to him and him alone.  He knew how to win almost every battle, and he did so.  But in the end, he did not have a strategy to win the war.

Roman victory, on the other hand, resulted from numerous characteristics of both the Roman people, the Roman army, and Roman leadership...

  1. The Romans were confident in their identities.  
  2. They had faith in their commanders, who were well-equipped and well-prepared -- individuals who knew how to win the war.
  3. The Romans were loyal Rome itself.  Since a dreadful defeat by the Gauls in 390 BC, Romans had lived by the motto -- Vae Victis, meaning "Woe to the conquerer..."  For after that point, Romans swore to never surrender again because they understood the repercussions that came with surrender -- one must pay a large price. 
  4. They refused to negotiate with the enemy.
  5. While the Romans lost battles, they always knew how to win the war.

I tend to look for analogies in everything I hear, read, see, etc.  So this is no different.  But I cannot help but see the parallels between Roman victory and the victory we, as believers, have in Christ.  For what did Romans do?  Conquer or die.  For if they were not the conquerers, they would indeed be conquered.

In Christianity, we believe that through the blood and death of Jesus Christ, we have victory over sin.  And through the resurrection of Christ, we have victory over death.  But apart from Christ, we cannot attain victory.  For it is HE alone who has made us victorious.

"For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.  But thank God!  He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ." -1 Corinthians 15:56-57

"In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.  And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God." -1 John 5:4-5

May we have faith and trust in the fact that our victory is found in the Lord alone -- that we are more than conquerers in Christ Jesus.

Like the Romans had hearts for Rome, may we have hearts for the Kingdom of God -- for believers of all nations.  (Below pics from Nicaragua mission trip last Spring Break:))  May we "go and make disciples of all nations."

It is my prayer that we would not negotiate with the enemy -- that we would not let the enemy even have the smallest foothold in our lives, that we would stand firm in trusting the deliverance of the Lord.  And like we often know what our own weaknesses are, the enemy does, as well.  In the Second Punic War, the enemy commander Hannibal knew the weaknesses of the Roman army, and he used those against them.  The enemy we are up against is crafty, and he is more than willing to use our weaknesses against us to kill, steal and destroy every ounce of self-worth we may have in order to make us feel as though we are defeated.  But if we live in a spirit of defeat, we are not living like Christ.  

Through Jesus Christ we have conquered sin -- not to say that we will not still struggle with sin.  Because obviously we are all still human and sinful by nature.  But sin no longer has the ability to take root in our lives, unless we allow it to.  And furthermore, no matter how bleak our situations may look, we must have faith in the truth that our God is greater, stronger, and higher than any other.

Furthermore, as believers we are to find our identities in Christ.  We are to imitate Christ and let him define the way we live.  I read Francis Chan's Forgotten God last semester .  While I knew that as believers we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, I hadn't really sat and fully contemplated that idea -- the thought that the very power of God, the essence of God, the holiness of God living inside of us.  That is not to say that we will not still struggle with sin because I will be the first to attest to the fact that I continue to struggle with sin on a daily basis.

But with that comes a very important daily choice: Will we define ourselves by who we are as the world sees us or categorizes us?  Or will we define ourselves by who we are in Christ?

Are we going to choose to live by a spirit of defeat?  Or by a spirit of our own attempted victory, which will only result in eventual defeat?  Or are we going to choose to live by the Spirit who has already been victorious -- the Spirit who has already conquered sin and death?

Finally, all of this being said, the Romans lost many a battle in the Second Punic War, but yet when all was said and done, the Romans won the war.  Know that in life we may occasionally fall captive to lies, deception, our own inadequacies, etc.  We may lose a battle or two or seven.  We may feel defeated and broken and worthless.  But the truth of the Gospel is simply this: we are more than conquerers through Christ Jesus our Lord.  This is not by any doing of our own, but out of the sheer compassion, grace and unconditional love of the Lord.  For it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us.

No matter where you are in life, know that ultimately, victory is ours through Christ Jesus.

"Some nations boast of their chariots and horses,
but we boast in the name of the Lord our God." 
-Psalm 20:7

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