A CLOUD OF WITNESSES
In the spring of 2008 on a trip to Rome, the one thing on my ‘to see’ list was the Colosseum, even ahead of Vatican City and St Peter’s Square and Cathedral. It was a sports arena after all and in contrast to everyone wanting to see churches and cathedrals in Europe, I am one to rank soccer fields, tennis courts and basketball courts high on my list. The Colosseum was a no brainer, must see. The structure is huge.
We first went to the top floor to get a great perspective of the entire building from where the Emperor and the royals sat, and where the gladiators were housed and entered the fight area. Then we proceeded to the lower level where the lions were caged, and where the Christians were kept as they waited their fate. As I walked around the Colosseum, I was struck by how massive it was for a building built almost 2000 years ago, and how elaborate it still is. But what really moved me was the fact that thousands of Christians died there. There were no grave markers, no monument to those who died, except a small cross on one end of the structure, just the Colosseum, just The Colosseum! After almost 2000 years, great parts of it were still standing.
Think about it, what a witness! A monument to Christians who gave their life rather than deny that Jesus was their Lord and Savior. God works in mysterious ways. God has preserved the Colosseum to direct visitor thoughts toward those who died in his name. For decade after decade, visitors come to one of the major sight-seeing attractions in Rome, possibly in the world, and God has used it as a reminder that Christians died there, my people, people whom I loved, people who would not bow to Nero but who took up the cross and followed Christ.
We have recently celebrated the birth of Christ and have reflected on how we have been so blessed as people, as churches and as a country we begin a New Year with a great deal of uncertainty and concern. However let us remember God works in mysterious ways. Let’s take up our cross and show everyone we put our trust in the Lord and pray that we as God’s people in the world and even at a place called the Christian Reformed Recreation Center, we witness to all people that Christ is Lord of all.