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Discovery Magazine 8/1/2000

Lions and Tigers and Christians

Over 87,000 Romans packed themselves into the huge amphitheater to watch the games. The day looked promising to any spectator who wanted to see violence, blood, and death. As the Roman Emperor took his seat, the games began. They started very innocently. Elephants were brought in to do tricks, bears were dressed as Roman officials and carried in on throne-like chairs, and even ostriches were brought in to amuse the crowd.

However, the restless spectators would not be satisfied with such innocent games. They wanted to see death and killing—and lots of it. A hush came over the crowd as sliding doors on the sides of the arena opened to let a tiger and a rhinoceros enter to fight a battle to the death. After that battle was over, a bull and a lion were released into the arena to see which one would kill the other. Again the doors opened as a wild boar and a leopard charged one another. The crowds roared and cheered as the animals clashed together in ferocious battle.

But the Romans were saving their favorite battle for last. The crowd bubbled with excitement as all the animal carcasses were cleared from the arena and new sand was spread. The crowd inched to the edge of their seats as Roman soldiers forced several harmless-looking men and women into the arena. The prisoners were condemned to death by the Roman government. Why had they been condemned? Because they were Christians! The crowd once again grew quiet as the sliding doors opened to allow the fierce lions and tigers into the arena. The Christians looked up to heaven, prayed for God to have mercy on the crowd, and were eaten alive by the wild beasts.

During the three centuries after Christ’s death, the Romans tortured thousands of Christians, feeding many of them to wild beasts. They were killed because they would not deny Jesus, they would not worship the Roman idols, and they would not call the Roman Emperor a god. Sometimes the martyrs were young women with babies. At other times they were 15-year-old boys, or 86-year-old men. But they were brave and strong, and they believed in being true to Jesus Christ.

Today, we probably never will have to choose between being true to Christ or being fed to the lions and tigers. But we will have to decide if Jesus is the most important part of our lives. Will you have the courage and strength to boldly stand up for Jesus even if it costs your popularity, your friends, or even your life?

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