Go get ChristianAudio.com’s free book of the month—Francis Schaeffer’s excellent How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Here’s a nugget:
Rome was cruel, and its cruelty can perhaps be best pictured by the events which took place in the arena in Rome itself. People seated above the arena floor watched gladiator contests and Christians thrown to the beasts. Let us not forget why the Christians were killed. The were not killed because they worshipped Jesus. Various religions covered the whole Roman world. One such was the cult of Mithras, a popular form of Zoroastrianism which had reached Rome by 67 b.c. Nobody cared who worshiped whom so long as the worshiper did not disrupt the unity of the state, centered in the formal worship of Caesar. The reason the Christians were killed was because they were rebels. This was especially so after their growing rejection by the Jewish synagogues lost for them the immunity granted to the Jews since Julius Caesar’s time.
We may express the nature of their rebellion in two ways, both of which are true. First, we can say they worshiped Jesus as God and they worshiped the infinite-personal God only. The Caesars would not tolerate this worshiping of the one God only. It was counted as treason. Thus their worship because a special threat to the unity of the state during the third century and during the reign of Diocletian (283-305), when people of the higher classes began to become Christians in larger numbers. If they had worshiped Jesus and Caesar, they would have gone unharmed, but they rejected all forms of syncretism. They worshiped the God who had revealed himself in the Old Testament, through Christ, and in the New Testament which had gradually been written. And they worshiped him as the only God. They allowed no mixture: All other Gods were seen as false gods.
We can also express in a second way why the Christians were killed: No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions. The Christian had that absolute in God’s revelation. Because the Christians had an absolute, universal standard by which to judge not only personal morals but the state, they were counted as enemies of totalitarian Rome and were thrown to the beasts. (pages 25-26)