In the series Rome, Titus Pullo is a proud soldier of Rome’s Thirteenth Legion. But the time comes when there are no more wars to fight and he descends into a life of cold-blooded, mercenary killing. When he is captured and condemned to die in the arena for his crimes, he is resigned if not relieved, in regard to his fate. When he is led out into the arena, he sits on the ground rather than taking up arms to fight for his life. He tells the gladiators he is ready to die.
Since executions in Rome were often as much about entertainment as they were about justice, his executioners urge him to defend himself and die nobly. Pullo isn’t interested; that is, until they begin to mock the Thirteenth Legion. This is the one thing in his life that he is proud enough to fight about. So for the honor of the Thirteenth, rather than himself, he squares off against his executioners.
When the fighting is done, all are dead except Pullo, who is badly wounded. Into the arena steps one final executioner to face him. Pullo is hurt too badly to fight and the executioner swings his mace toward Pullo to deal the blow that will bring his death. But before he can do this, a sword is drawn and another enters the arena. “For the Thirteenth,” says the voice. It is a friend of Pullo’s, though the two are estranged because of the choices Pullo has made with his life. His entrance into the arena is not on behalf of his estranged friend, but for the Thirteenth. He kills the executioner and saves his friend’s life, but in his mind the more significant thing is that the honor of the Thirteenth is preserved.
I think there’s solid truth here for those who belong to Christ. It’s right and good to be your brother’s keeper because you have pleasant thoughts and warm feelings about him. When everything is going right, that’s the way things will and should be. But the truth is, all relationships suffer through dry seasons when the way you think and/or feel toward someone (or they toward you), is not what it could be. When things are this way, it can be quite a challenge to act above your feelings and thoughts.
That’s why it’s important for us to recognize that our loving actions are based on more than just mutual good will, common concerns, or warm, fuzzy feelings. They are rooted in the fact that we are soldiers in the same army. To enter the arena on behalf of a brother is to enter it on behalf of Christ, for His honor.
We must not view relationships as merely about ourselves and others, they are also about Christ (Matthew 25:31-46). This Christ dimension of relationships means that we are connected at a deeper level than our mere likes and dislikes. We are bound together by something that is bigger than we are. And if we are connected at a deeper level, we should act at a deeper level.
The truth is, it requires nothing to make our decisions to be involved or not to be involved with people based on how they act toward us. That is the default setting of the human race (Matthew 5:46-47). Jesus stood for all people regardless or how they acted or felt about Him. When we stand for others regardless of what we think or feel in order to preserve the honor of Christ, we are being faithful soldiers. While this might dash some of the sentimental notions we may have about love, it anchors love in a way that enables it to be real in our lives and in the world.
Isn’t that what we really need?