It was a double misfortune that the child was born frail, and female at that. Her husband had made his wishes clear. Without so much as shedding a tear, she stood by silently as her baby’s throat was slit.
You are shocked, and rightly so, but do you know why this scene turns your stomach?
Horror might seem to be the natural response to such brutality, but that hasn’t always been the case.
The parents in the scene -let’s call them Drusilla and Gallus –are just your average Roman couple living at the time of Christ.
Here’s the crazy thing: Gallus and Drusilla aren’t considered bad people by their neighbors. They’re simply doing what lots of other Romans do — getting rid of unwanted children who are a burden to the family or to society.
Maybe later this week, Gallus will take in a show at the Coliseum and watch men disembowel each other. Or he might attend a party with his mistress and have sex with her in front of everyone.
Or maybe his desires run more toward young lads. Such urges can easily be fulfilled without qualms for a man in ancient Rome.
Drusilla, for her part, wouldn’t be able to leave the house much at all. As a woman, she’s considered suspicious in character and ignorant of mind. She’s supposed to stay home and tend the fires burning in honor of her husband’s household gods.
If she gets caught cheating on her husband, it’s the death sentence –but he won’t be punished for the same actions at all. As a matter of fact, he can put his wife or children to death for pretty much any reason he feels like.
I’m not making this stuff up. This was real life in ancient Rome.
And not only Rome — the Greeks and many pagan cultures disposed of their children and had a low view of the value of human life and the gift of sex.
So what changed things? Why don’t we watch people gore each other to death in live spectacles anymore, like people did for over 600 years? Why don’t we paint pornography all over our household vases in full view of the children?
Why don’t we drown our unwanted infants?
Because Jesus Christ and his followers radically changed Western Civilization.
While Romans left their babies on manure piles to die, Christians upheld their belief in the sanctity of human life by taking in those children as their own.
While Romans honored those in power and despised the poor, Christians took up collections to help the needy.
While Romans treated their women as slaves, Christians elevated them to equal status.
These are just a few examples of the profound, far-reaching difference the gospel has made in Western Civilization as we know it. In How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt writes:
In the ancient world, (Jesus’) teachings elevated brutish standards of morality, halted infanticide, enhanced human life, emancipated women, abolished slavery, inspired charities and relief organizations, created hospitals, established orphanages, and founded schools.
Christian influence is the reason you recoil from violence on TV shows. It’s the reason you understand we should love others and give to charity. It’s why we don’t have sex out in the street like dogs.
Christianity gets a bad rap for the Crusades, but please … let’s consider the whole picture here. Truth is, Jesus and his followers turned the world upside down — or perhaps we should say, right side up.
Had Gallus and Drusilla turned to Christ, no doubt their little girl would have lived. Gallus would have been delivered from addiction to base appetites. Drusilla would have been cherished.
Aren’t you glad you live in the aftermath of the gospel?