Middle East Travels (IV)
We may not think of it as a problem, but the Roman Empire had a problem. It was the same problem that the Greek Empire had.
When you conquered a group of people, how did you control them?
Both of these empires had spread far and wide and the question was this: How do we keep these people in line? How do we make them part of our empires?
Both of these empires used three means to control people. The first is probably the one that comes to mind for many of us—they used threats. This was the “Do what we tell you to do or we’ll hurt you” method of controlling someone. And it worked. But it took a lot of firepower and a lot of soldiers. And it made for some very unhappy and always ready to rebel subjects.
That’s why the other two methods were used more frequently and were much more effective.
And just to let you know why I’m telling you this, I think these other two methods are the challenges most of us face in our lives today. Our culture does not use out and out threats to control us, but I do think it uses these other methods.
So what are they?
The second method that Greece and Rome used to control others was promise. We don’t often think of this, but one of the chief means the Roman Empire was so successful was that becoming part of the Roman empire meant that you would probably be wealthy and safe. Did you know that cities and states were asking—begging—to become part of the Roman Empire? It wasn’t just that they were conquered with swords. No. They knew that Rome brought peace and riches. With Roman trade routes and Roman protection, life would get a lot better. Somewhat similar to the way that people want to come to the US today, in that day, people wanted to be a part of the Roman Empire. It was the best life you could have. We don’t often think of it this way, but one of the biggest temptations the early Christians faced was the temptation to enjoy all the good things the Roman Empire had to offer and to put their trust in it.
Thinking about that makes me wonder where I have put my trust.
It can be pretty easy to believe that Wall Street or my job or the government is the source of wealth. And we can find security not in God, but in the US armed forces. Being a good American can provide us with perhaps the best life on the planet today. And there’s something at least a little bit dangerous about that. Too easily we can give lip service to God but at the same time really put our faith and trust in the American Way. Now, it’s tough to think about this because we do live in a great country and many of us have been deeply blessed here.
But we have to remember that our true source of wealth and security is God.
And if the government or the stock market or our job goes against God, we need to be willing to trust that God will meet all our needs. For us as well as the early Christians, temptation doesn’t always show up with a threat—sometimes it shows up with wonderful promises that look really promising.
Let’s stay on our guards.
(wonder what the third promise was? GO HERE)
Middle East Travels (IV) – you’re here, my friend
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