During the ninth and tenth centuries, Viking warriors invaded much of Europe, plundering villages and murdering inhabitants. Their violence became so widespread and so feared that in European churches the prayer was given: “From the fury of the Northmen, O Lord, deliver us!”
There seemed to be no hope for these violent pagan marauders who were so despised, but God was actively working on men’s hearts and soon missionaries took Bible truth to Scandinavia. In time, Christ’s love won out; many previously vicious Vikings laid aside their instruments of war and took up the cause of the Prince of Peace.
The Roman centurion in charge of the detail guarding the cross of Christ was accustomed to the rough and violent life of a warrior. As a pagan, he had been raised to believe in false deities such as Janus, the god of beginnings and endings; Mars, the god of war; and many others.
But on this day, he witnessed something so profound that it changed his life forever. He had been impressed with Jesus’ unusual patience under such horrific circumstances, with His prayer for those who were hurting Him, and with His words of forgiveness to one of the thieves crucified beside Him. He couldn’t ignore the eerie darkness that covered the cross, and its sudden lifting, just before Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) and died. Then came the earthquake.
As he stared at the broken body of the Lord, the centurion recognized that this was no mere man. His heathen heart melted, and he expressed his faith, calling out, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Our planet is overflowing with godless, violent, hopeless people. But the loving Spirit of Christ is able to reach and transform even the coldest and most heartless individuals on earth. Are these people in your prayers today?
Dear Father, take away my hatred for my enemies and help me to pray for them in the Spirit of Jesus!
For Further Study: Matthew 5:43–48; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47