Easter, Faith

Cross: The Reality of Persecution

By JeanneTakenaka

True Confession: I must have had a huge blonde moment (and, yes, I really am blonde in real life…mixed in with some grays) last week. I had it in my brain that there was one more week until Easter. And . . . I shared a different post than I’d intended. So, though Easter has already passed, I am posting this one for this week. Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done this sort of thing.  🙂

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During our time in Rome, Edmund and I toured the Colosseum, and my eyes caught on a cross. It brought to mind the reality that Christians were persecuted in this place.

Flavius’ Amphitheater was an extravagant undertaking for the men who visualized and built it. What stopped me hard was learning the reason it was built:

So Romans could watch people fight and spill blood. This was the sole reason.

My heart wrenched to see such an architectural masterpiece used as a venue for entertaining via suffering and blood spill. Most of us have read that Christians were martyred there as well, under the guise of being criminals. They were usually forced to fight for their lives against ferocious beasts.

As I scanned the open space of the excavated arena floor, the remaining crumblings of seats, and the beauty of the outer wall architectures against the brilliant blue sky, I kept coming back to that cross. This cross wasn’t part of the original builder’s plans. I’m not sure when it was added. But, it stood as a symbol of hope to me.

In a stadium designed to encourage bloodshed and sport that injured or took peoples’ lives, the cross still reigns supreme.

Yes, Christians were martyred for entertainment. But why? They were almost always accused of other crimes (Emperor Nero accused the Christians of setting the great fire in 64 A.D.), but the underlying issue was that most of them were believers in the work Jesus did on the cross.

In a world where persecution takes many forms, the cross still stands sentinel over peoples’ lives, peoples’ actions. 

Jesus, the one, true Lord, died a martyr’s death. But the cross didn’t have the last word. Death didn’t pronounce the final victory.

And that truth is what people have been willing to die for throughout the A.D. years. 

When we think of Easter, it’s easy to see the gentle pastels, the spring time beauty of just-blooming flowers. It’s comforting to think about celebrating Jesus’ resurrection at a sunrise service.

How often do we consider what led to the resurrection? Many Christians contemplate Jesus’ trial and unjustified death sentence during Holy Week. We rejoice at Jesus’ resurrection . . . and we should. 

Do we reflect on how many people have been persecuted and martyred because of their belief in a resurrected Savior?

Can I be honest and say that—in my first-world life, with my one husband and two busy teenaged sons—I don’t give Holy Week and the persecution Jesus endured as much thought as I should?

 Though the cross in the Colosseum was not built during the martyrdom of Christians, it stands today as a reminder that yes, people were killed for their belief in Jesus. 

But death didn’t have the final word for them either.

Those who have died because of their belief in Jesus are defined not by how they died but by where they spend eternity.

The message of the cross still reigns today. This symbol offers a reminder that there is One who chose to carry the burden of our sin, to die in our place. The cross offers the hope that death on earth is not the end. 

Seeing the cross that day reminded me that—though many died in the Colosseum, and many have died via martyrdom since then—their stories didn’t end there. And neither do ours.

We will all die one day. The ultimate reality is what we believe about the cross determines where we live the rest of our story. 

The hope the cross offers comes because we know that, though death has a chapter in each story, it doesn’t get to declare, “The End.” 

The cross reminds us that there’s a Savior who loves us . . . enough to die a painful death so we can know eternal life. 

And that, my friend, offers great hope.

What about you? What does the cross speak to you? Where have you visited that caused you to stop and think about God?

Click to Tweet: In a world where persecution takes many forms, the cross still stands sentinel over peoples’ lives, peoples’ actions.

I’m linking up with #TellHisStory and #RaRaLinkup

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30 thoughts on “Cross: The Reality of Persecution”

  1. I think ’bout God most every hour,
    I haven’t got much choice.
    In the yard and in the shower,
    I hear my Master’s Voice
    I listen as choirs of angels sing
    and sure, their songs are pretty
    but I’d rather they had a different ring
    than “Nearer My God To Thee.”
    I’m worn by cancer’s hard regime
    but it’s blessing all the same
    because it shook me from the dream
    where I didn’t know His name.
    As God and I walk side by side;
    only He knows what will betide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Andrew, this poem is beautiful. May I be attuned to my Master’s Voice as well. I love the quiet confidence you share through your words. When we walk side-by-side with God, we may not know what will happen, but we walk through it with the One who loves us most.

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  2. Oh, we have all been there! When we think that it’s one day or week or even month, only to discover differently. Thanks for sharing this Easter encouragement. There is no wrong time to share that!

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  3. For me, Jeanne, Easter has become linked with April 18th, the anniversary of the death of 3 men martyred for their faith in Malatya, Turkey. They were tortured brutally for 4 hours, and police caught the perpetrators red-handed. Today, the murderers are walking free. I’ll never forget where I was when I got the call. It was a very scary time for believers in Turkey. But I also remember the 3-inch headline, “I Forgive!” It was the declaration of one of the widows left behind. Yes, persecution is real, but we have hope in Christ, and death does not have the victory!

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    1. Oh, Betsy. My heart ached as I read your words. It’s stunning how much man can diminish the drastic nature of sin . . .in this case allowing murderers to walk free. That declaration of forgiveness is beautiful, and how amazing that it got a 3-inch headline. I wonder how God worked as a result of that. We do have hope in Christ, don’t we? Thank you so much for sharing this painful, beautiful story.

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  4. Jeanne, I am grateful you shared this beautiful reflection. There is such hope in remembering that while “death has a chapter in each story, it doesn’t get to declare, “The End.” ”
    Amen and Amen!

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  5. Jeanne,
    Take heart, I have my share of “blonde moments” lol. You still offer truth to contemplate. My work with Christians in Pakistan keeps my eyes and heart focused on what others endure for their belief in Christ as their Savior. I don’t have to worry about being burned at a stake, bombed, or gunned down due to religious hatred. May we all look and not take our faith and the freedom to exercise it for granted.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. Bev, I imagine you are much more acquainted with persecution than most as you minister to those who have been victims. And yes! May we all look, pray and not take faith and freedom for granted. Thank you, friend.

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  6. Thank you for letting us accompany you via pictures! And I’m not ready to let go of Easter yet, so I’m thankful that this post has come to me today! Blessings to you, Jeanne.

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  7. It’s nice to read this AFTER Easter… sometimes I get too busy during this season, so reading this “late” allows me to really absorb what you’ve written!!! Thanks, Jeanne!

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    1. Jessica, I know what you mean about the week leading up to Easter being so busy. I’m glad this came at at time when you could absorb the words. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  8. That must have been quite an experience – to see the amphitheatre and imagine all that took place there so long ago. I love that the cross was such a powerful reminder in the midst of it all that God still reigns, even over persecution, and that death is not the end.

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    1. Lesley, the experience surprised me. Seeing that cross took me outside of “I’m on a tour” mode, and gave me a visual of how God is always faithful, even when (especially when?) His children undergo persecution for what they believe. I’m so grateful God still reigns, even when it appears evil has the upper hand.

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  9. Jeanne, I have had more “blond moments” than I can count, and they are getting more frequent as I get older.

    Your post reminded me of the book “Quo Vadis”, the story of first-century Christians living in Rome. It’s historical fiction but tells the story of how Christians lived and died in a very compelling way. The horrors that took place in the amphitheater are too horrible for words. Early Christians certainly lived their faith in a very real way.

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    1. Laurie, you make me feel better about my blonde moment. 🙂 I read Quo Vadis many years ago, and I was so moved by that story! I need to read it again. Early Christians and many today have to choose their faith or their lives. My deepest admiration goes to those who have chosen Jesus over life.

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  10. Jeanne, this is so spot-on and even after Easter Sunday has come and gone. We have to be willing to carry our cross, in whatever form it takes. Thank you for reminding us.

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    1. You’re so right, Kathy! We must be willing to carry our cross. And each person’s cross does take a different shape. I so need to remember that when my cross feels burdensome. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

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  11. Too funny about your “blonde moment”!! But is there ever a “bad” time to share a post about the cross. No indeed:) So grateful for another reminder of all that is mine because of the cross – especially the hope it gives!! So glad you shared….your posts and, as always, your wonderful photography!

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    1. Jennifer, sometimes I just gotta keep it real. 😉 I’m with you, so very thankful for all that God has given us because of the cross. Thank you for your kind words. Have a beautiful Thursday!

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  12. Oh, Jeanne … I’ve had more than my fair share of blonde moments in recent months … and believe me, it’s not the hair color.

    I hear you, friend. And can’t help wondering if God wanted this post right here published right now for someone specific.

    All is well …

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  13. Thank you for your beautiful words. And all the grace for being “off” a week.

    I am humbled that Jesus saved us through His death on a cross. The gift He gave through the sacrifice of himself is beyond words. I appreciate the journey you took us on to explore the cross. Your photos are lovely.

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  14. Dear Jeanne, I love this thought about the truth of our stories as believers: “…though death has a chapter in each story, it doesn’t get to declare, ‘The End’.”
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

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