Queen Elizabeth II has been the longest and most successful reigning monarch of the United Kingdom and its Commonwealth in all of British History, beating her closest rival, Queen Victoria, by a considerable number of years. Now that she is gone, a strong rivalry had arisen among her offspring. Prince Andrew, the Queen's second son, suddenly arose from his obscure position and killed his older brother Prince Charles, along with his wife Camilla. Then, in a fit of rage, he had both of Prince Charles' sons executed, William, along with his wife Catherine, and their two offspring George and Charlotte, along with William's brother Harry. Then as Prince Andrew went up to Westminster Abbey to claim the Throne, his younger brother Edward arrived at the imposing London Abbey and ordered a servant to assassinate his older brother to avenge for the murders of his own siblings. Then the youngest of the three male Princes would have the power to claim the Throne to became King Edward IX.
|Prince Andrew, left, and Prince Charles.|
Such a terrible scandal is fiction of course! But if such a conspiracy, which had its beginnings within Prince Andrew's ego was to see its actual fulfilment, how would the rest of the world react? And the shocks shaking the Church of England to the core, starting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, second to the Queen herself, and trembling violently through the entire ecclesiastical structure, along with every church of all denominations in the UK, Europe, and North and South America alike, along with all the churches in Australasia, together with every citizen in the western world, and even in the Middle and Far East would recoil with horror. Let's face it, Britain would never be the same again. More than likely the scandal would create a great victory for the Republicans who, like Oliver Cromwell before them, would have the King ousted, if not executed, but this time around, the UK and its Commonwealth would join countries such as France, Italy, Germany, the USA, and Russia in having a President as a permanent Head of State. From then on, such a scandal would feature in school history books for generations to come.
Not that something in that direction has never happened in British history. For example, of King Henry VIII's six wives, he had two executed and divorced two more, with another dying shortly after her childbirth of Edward VI. Only the sixth wife, Catherine Parr, outlived her husband to enjoy her latter days of widowhood. Yet this was the guy who fell foul of the Pope in Rome over the latter's refusal to grant permission to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, for failing to produce an heir to the Throne. So he thought: "I'll be the Head of the Church across England instead! To hell with the Pope!"
But such history is mild compared to the days of the Roman Empire. Because those were the days when bloodshed among the Heads of State were quite common. In fact, far more akin to the fictional tale of Prince Andrew's treachery described above. But back then it was all for real. One good example of a series of treachery has been recorded concerning the Julian-Claudius Dynasty. Emperor Claudius (41-54 AD) was himself murdered by his 4th wife Aggrippina, most likely by serving him a dish of poisonous mushrooms. This was done to make way for her own son Nero, a great-nephew of Claudius, who in turn killed his own dominant mother. Preceding Claudius was Emperor Caligula, whose reign of less than four years between 37 and 41 AD ended when he was slain by a Praetorian guard. Rather than rule over the Empire with dignity, Caligula was known for his womanising, particularly in sleeping with his own sisters, along with paedophilia with both boys and girls.
Then the life of Emperor Tiberius is well documented. Reigning between 14-37 AD, this fellow was on the Throne during the time Jesus grew up, died, buried and Resurrected. Rather than fulfil his role as Head of State, he spent much of his reign at the island of Capri as a paedophile, particularly with young boys, swimming in the sea and having sexual relations with them. Then there was Emperor Nero, with his unsubstantiated rumour that he played on the fiddle whilst Rome was burning. Reigning between 54 and 68 AD, when he committed suicide, he was regarded as one of the most cruel rulers in the Empire, willingly killing everyone who disagreed with him. So much blood was there in his hands that by the year 68 AD, the Senate eventually had to disown him, and refused to accept his authority, a decision which led to his suicide. It was during his reign that Saul of Tarsus was called by the Lord to minister as the Apostle Paul.
|Killings among Roman Emperors|
Because of the Pax Romana instituted by Caesar Augustus (27 BC-14 AD), quelling the tribal wars which occurred frequently in the past, the people were so grateful that they wanted a form of worship. Unable to bow down to an abstract quality, it wasn't too long that the Emperor was deified, and eventually it became the custom for every Roman citizen to swear allegiance to Rome with the Emperor as Lord. And Lord as being more than mere employer or even Head of State, but Lord of all, as a god or divinity.
And that was why a true Christian believer was persecuted. First by the Jews for insisting that Jesus of Nazareth being their true Messiah has fulfilled the Law of Moses and thus making the Temple obsolete. But outside Judea, the Romans began to persecute Christian believers for saying that Jesus is the true Lord, the Eternal God, and not Caesar. Here was the conflict: Either one or the other was Lord - Caesar or this Jesus of Nazareth. If one declared Caesar as Lord, that was fine, the individual was allowed to carry on living normally. But if the person declared Jesus Christ as Lord, then he was seen as a traitor and faced the death penalty. Little wonder that Paul wrote on one occasion that no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). The stakes were high. Confessing Jesus as Lord instead of Caesar in those days resulted in death.
But what I can see as something of an oddity is Paul's instructions to the church in Rome that everyone must submit to the authorities, as there is no authority that has not been established by God. And to add to this, the paying of taxes is a legal requirement (Romans 13:1-7). Paul then explains that the reason human governments are in place is to keep evil in check, with their servants punishing everyone who does evil, but offering praise to those who do the right things. For, he explains, the peacekeepers at the time did not carry their swords for nothing, neither does all the Police Departments in America at present carry guns in vain, nor do our forces here in the UK carry batons without a purpose. Therefore, although I do find it difficult to realise, the vote for us to leave the European Union has apparently been given the okay by God himself, even if I voted in preference to remain. Likewise, reports came out that many are shocked at the surprise victory of Donald Trump at last week's U.S. Presidential election. Reports of anti-Trump protests taking place at various cities - New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and other cities, with a feeling of deep apprehension on what the future of the country under Donald Trump's administration will be like.
Even with my own reservations over the future of the USA, I grew up with the notion that all those in authority, particularly in a Christian country, must be icons of Biblical morality. And so, over recent centuries they were, to a greater or lesser degree, with something as mild as a single case of adultery within Government making news headlines. But I wonder, with no fear of persecutions and with comparatively comfortable living we enjoy as Christians, does this make Christian living more difficult? Or put it another way, does our comfortable living weaken or even nullify the power of witness and evangelism? I imagine a believer standing at the Roman Senate, being asked who is Lord, with the death threat hanging over his head, or someone tied to a stake and literally being burned alive - just for declaring that through faith in Christ alone, without works, acquittal from God is available. Then I imagine a modern Christian professional, dressed in suit and tie, and totally indistinguishable from the moral atheist living next door, leaving his detached suburban home to climb into his flash car for a short drive to the office. Then he moans that prayer is hard work!
Prayer is hard work! And that is not from me, it was a statement made by one of our church Elders a few years ago. I think the churches of ancient times had much to pray for. They knew that no matter how evil and wicked their Emperor was, he was placed in authority by God. And they prayed for both the unsaved to believe, and for the believers to remain close to their Lord and to lead holy lives, not at all from a threat of losing their salvation, but as a shining example for their fellow men, drawing more to the faith. It was part of what they believed in, that the Roman Empire was not their home. They were seeking a far better country, a city whose founder and maker is God himself (Hebrews 11:10-16).
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33). This, I think, should be the life pattern for all believers in Jesus Christ. Seeking for God's Kingdom and his righteousness. Not seeking earthly nationalism. For it looks to me that commitment to nationalism, whether it be for Brexit over here, or for Donald Trump as the next American President, will spawn hatred and division. Over here, the Far Right has already made its mark, bringing division, misery and fear, especially to those born overseas. In turn, Trump, during his election campaign, has vowed not to allow Muslims into the USA and also to build a wall on the USA/Mexico border. Hatred, fear and division - for something which is earthly and transient. We as true believers in Christ should set our minds on the things above, where Christ is seated, and not on things of the earth (Colossians 3:2). Like that, love, peace, and joy of the Holy Spirit should reign in our hearts, regardless of how evil future Governments may turn out to be. Even if another Caesar would one day arise.