Ancient Ruins ~ Unexpected Revelations

I wish I could share every unforgettable moment that Diane and I experienced during our time in the Holy Land earlier this year. Unfortunately, I can’t do that, but today I’d like to highlight some thoughts that emerged during one of them. We were sitting on the stone seats of a theater in Caesarea Maritima that was built by Herod the Great over 2,000 years ago. That was unforgettable enough by itself, but listening to the richly detailed accounts of life in that culture made it even more so. It was impossible to imagine the world at that time and not compare it to our own. Even though the ruins of that Greco-Roman theater may have looked vastly different from the ones we see today, beneath the surface there was an eerie similarity between what went on then and what we’re seeing here and now. The physical architecture was vastly different from ours, but the spiritual forces at work haven’t changed. An observation about the region’s history was tucked into the presentation that day and led to some compelling realizations.

A Different Kind of Conquest ~
We learned that before Rome ever conquered the world’s armies, the Greeks had already begun to conquer the world’s prevailing culture. Alexander the Great accomplished more than military conquest. He planted Hellenistic thinking throughout the world. Long before Rome’s legions ever arrived,ruins.1 Alexander had exported Greek philosophies, Greek literature, Greek athletics, and a collection of gods that were different. The fictitious gods of Mount Olympus were more human in appearance and conduct, and worshipping in their temples not only allowed, but promoted, every kind of sensual pleasure imaginable. Israel may have been subdued and occupied by Roman armies, but the seductive allure of ideas introduced by the Greeks proved to be an enemy that would outlast Rome.  

Presenting ideas and behaviors that are radically different, socially toxic, and that contradict a nation’s prevailing traditions and customs is not an easy task. They would be soundly rejected if their destructive implication were displayed openly and honestly. The alternative approach, and the strategy Satan has perfected, is to insert them in small doses in pleasing circumstances. There were two familiar facilities that the devil used to enable that process, and we were sitting in one of them at Caesarea Maritima.  

Two Primary Requisites ~
Every Roman city was required to have a theater and a sports arena, and they were universally the most frequently attended facilities. Radical ideas and behaviors that would never have been allowed in ruins.2people’s homes were introduced there a little at a time under the guise of art, entertainment, and athletic competition. In a relatively short time, things that would have been considered not only personally dishonoring and morally unacceptable, but disgusting and repulsive, came to be considered normal and were hardly noticed. Eventually, the pursuit of personal pleasure and sensual fulfillment trampled moral restraints, religious convictions, traditional values and relational commitments. Sound familiar?

So consider this. Are we repeating another pattern that history is screaming for us to notice and learn from? How is it that this strategy has continued to work so well in so many cultures for so long? What do the theater and the sports arena offer that is so compelling? All the theater can offer is a bunch of people pretending to be something they’re not. On the sports side, all we have is another bunch of people running and jumping and throwing things in ways that most others can’t do. Why would we even care? 

Familiar Motivations ~
The answer is simple. We want to experience vicariously what we can’t seem to find otherwise. We want to feel what it’s like to be the irresistible lover, or to be the one receiving that love. We want to see evil villains get what they deserve and perhaps to be the hero who brings them down. We want to feel what it’s like to be the best, to finish first and claim the victor’s crown. We want to watch tears spawned byruins.3 overwhelming joy to help us forget our own. We want someone to make us laugh like our heart’s been set free. We’re dying to know what it looks like when broken hearts are healed, and broken bodies are made whole. We want to see and feel what it’s like to be a hopeless and helpless slave who finds deliverance. We want pain and death to be vanquished and to feel for a few minutes what it would be like to live happily ever after. No wonder the theater was such a popular place. But unfortunately, the actors can only pretend and the theater can’t actually grant any of the things our hearts crave.

And neither can athletes in the arena make us victorious over anything . . . but Jesus can:

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:57 NKJV)

The theater can’t offer enduring joy or pleasure that fulfills but Jesus can: 

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)

The theater can’t lift us above the hard things. The performers on stage don’t even know us, much less love us, but Jesus does, and He always will:

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:37–39 NKJV)

The theater can portray life, but it can’t create it, preserve it, or make it better. Jesus can do all of that: 

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10 NKJV)

Clarifying the Point ~
Let me say very clearly that the point here is not to cast a blanket condemnation over theaters and sports arenas. But we shouldn’t be naive about how the devil still loves to use them to desensitize us to evil, ruins.4then to gradually seduce us into accepting that evil as normal, and finally into embracing it. There’s no doubt that evil was on display at the theater there in Caesarea Maritima, but it couldn’t creep off the stage and out into the community on its own. Evil couldn’t do that then, and it can’t do that now. Evil can never leave the stage or the screen or the concert hall except in the hearts, minds, and bodies of those who come to observe it. God didn’t tell us to live like antisocial hermits and avoid every mechanism the world and the devil might choose to employ. He sent us into the world to live out a redemption drama that’s real and His directive about evil was pretty simple. He said, 

Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21–22 NKJV)

Though magnificent in its heyday, most of Herod’s theater and the surrounding city eventually crumbled. Internal corruption at the highest levels allowed invading barbarians to reduce the most powerful nation on earth to chaos. But the lesson we must not forget is that the Church of Jesus Christ marched out of that rubble and transformed the world. The challenge for us today is not just to remember that, but to believe that that same transforming power is still alive today and available to us here and now. It wasn’t granted by actors, politicians, athletes, oligarchs, or social activists back then, and it won’t be now. We may not be able to keep evil off the stage, but we can refuse to give it a ride home.


“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below.  Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .

    • “Every Roman city was required to have a theater and sports arena. Radical ideas & behaviors that would never have been allowed in people’s homes were gradually introduced there under the guise of art, entertainment & athletic competition.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
    • “We shouldn’t be naive about how the devil still loves to use theaters and sports arenas to desensitize us to evil, then to gradually seduce us into accepting that evil as normal, and finally into embracing it.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)  
    • “There’s no doubt that evil was on display at the theater there in Caesarea Maritima, but it couldn’t creep off the stage and out into the community on its own. Evil couldn’t do that then, and it can’t do that now.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)  
    • “Evil can never leave the stage or the screen or the concert hall except in the hearts, minds, and bodies of those who come to observe it.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)  
    • “God didn’t tell us to live like antisocial hermits and avoid every mechanism the devil might choose to employ. He sent us into the world to live out a redemption drama that’s real, and His directive about evil was pretty simple (1 Thess. 5:21-22). @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet) 

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© 2022 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S.  All rights reserved.

About Ron Gallagher, Ed.S

Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher, Humorist, Satirist, Blogger ... "Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World" For Ron's full bio, go to GallaghersPen.com/about/
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8 Responses to Ancient Ruins ~ Unexpected Revelations

  1. JD Wininger says:

    Not sure that your full intent was this my friend, but your exhortation left me inspired, enthused, and excited about my “tomorrow.” Don’t think for a second that I’m anything but heartbroken to see the current state of our nation and this world, and it’s only getting worse with each day it seems; but your words truly inspire me today. Yes, all around us is crumbling, or as King Solomon lamented, “All is vanity.” Yet, your grace-filled words remind me that as an heir to the treasury of heaven, I no longer belong to this world. I am but an Ambassador to the King of Kings. I must remember this if I am to be His emissary to those whose citizenship is bound to this world. yes, I can and should cry out that great revival take place and that the once proud nation I loved so much is returned to the godly values and morality that made us the greatest nation in this world. However, I should not allow my sorrow to see what is occurring around me to cause me to waiver in my quest. I must continue to stand strong in Christ and shine His magnificent light into this world so that others might see and inquire within His temple. Thank you for the wonderful reminder that my citizenship is no longer in this world and that I am but a sojourner who is passing through in hopes of sharing His good news with those I interact along my journey. Thank you, and God’s blessings my friend.

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    • Thanks so much for your characteristically gracious response, J.D. Truth is, I struggled with that piece. There was too much to try to say and not enough space to say it. I would have been better off to go in an entirely different direction, I think. Sitting in the ruins of that theater, I was overwhelmed and disturbed at how we allowed the devil to use the same kind of strategy to subdue the moral character of this country that he used in antiquity. We allowed him to gradually own the theaters and he used them to introduce ideas and behaviors that God condemned. Now that same tactic has spread to the sports, the corporate board rooms, and the entire education system. Add to that the toxic behemoth of social media and the picture looks pretty dark. But against that convicting and depressing backdrop there was the reminder that the surrounding backdrop was pretty dark when Jesus arrived, too. But in spite of that, He brought light into the darkness of His day, too. He lived and ministered in a nation controlled by their enemies. and in spite of that, He brought a message of life and.hope. He confronted lies and deception with truth. He countered corruption with integrity and honesty, and exposed hypocrisy with a life that was open and transparent. Finally, He took on death in all its forms and rose triumphant. The enemy is strong and the challenge is daunting but the Spirit of the One who overcame then lives in us and I don’t want any of us to lose that awareness.

      I had a conversation with a dear family yesterday that illustrates what can happen when the enemy’s influence creeps into the church. They told us their family had to look for a new church. The Baptist church they had belonged to for years announced that they would not be allowing any expression of patriotism anymore, even on holidays the Fourth of July and Memorial Day. Their leadership decided it would seem offensive to some people, especially immigrants that might be visiting, and it could also be construed as idolatry. That kind of thing drives me nuts, J.D. I don’t want the church to be a political tool, but I don’t want love for this country that was built on God’s principles to be treated like some kind of threat to the ruling class. Anyhow, I’m sorry for rambling on, and I’m so grateful for the insights you share and the encouragement you always offer. May God bless you for that, my friend, and may He continue to fill you and use you to carry out the mission that Jesus sent His Church into enemy territory to do.

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      • JD Wininger says:

        Am right there with you Mr. Ron. There should be zero “Politics” in the pulpit. Instead, it is a place for principles to be explained, defended, and held up to the light of His Word. Preach on brother!

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      • If I could bottle the grace and encouragement that you manage to wrap in your comments, I could put a bunch of drug dealers out of business. Being on the same page with you is territory I’m always glad to occupy and i am always grateful for the affirmation. Maybe if enough of us keep pressing for a return to Biblical exposition and application instead of another lecture on how to be less offensive and feel better about ourselves, we’ll begin to see some cleansing and real revival. As one of our favorite passages reminds us, He’s the God of hope. Blessings to you and all the Cross-Dubya family.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, Ron, the devil will do his best to desensitize us to evil and wickedness; things haven’t changed over the countless years since man has been on earth. Only by God’s grace and choosing to follow Jesus can we be saved, not only from the snares of the world, but from the snares we too often make for ourselves. Let us keep praying for our nation, and commit ourselves anew to follow our Lord and Savior.
    Blessings!

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    • God bless you for being one of those who haven’t been blinded to the devil’s tactics, Martha, and for spreading the light of God’s truth in both your writing and the life you life. You are a continual source of encouragement, my friend, and I rejoice in how God continues to use you. May the grace and power of God’s presence continue to be manifested in all you do as we continue this battle together.

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  3. Linda Harrison says:

    Ron, Another great post, thank you!

    “We may not be able to keep evil off the stage, but we can refuse to give it a ride home.

    This line you wrote spoke out loud to me…your gift of eloquence is appreciated! Hope you and Diane have a wonderful weekend.

    Much love and hugs, Linda

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

    • Thank you so much for the gracious and encouraging note, Linda. The surrounding backdrop may look pretty dark and foreboding, but the Lord showed us that incredible things can unfold behind enemy lines and that darkness can’t endure exposure to the light. God bless you for the courageous stand you and your family take, and may His presence be unmistakeable in your lives.

      Like

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