Christianity began in Jerusalem, Israel under the rulership of the Roman Empire. In Christianity’s infancy it was seen by the Romans as an offshoot or sect of Judaism. Because the Jewish people were given certain privileges, Christianity was given them also. It did not take the Roman rulers long, however, to see that there was a huge difference between Judaism and Christianity. So Rome demanded the Christians follow all the rules and regulations, including those pertaining to worship of gods. The Jews were allowed to not worship the Roman gods, but the Christians were required to worship them. The early Christians were as dedicated to worship of ONLY their God as the Jews were. So they (Christians) were seen as ‘pagan’ by the Romans due to their refusal to worship the Roman gods. They were branded as ‘trouble makers’.
The early followers of Jesus were also seen as cannibals and incestuous. They were called cannibals because they met secretly, at night, and part of their ceremony entailed them partaking of the Lord’s Supper (Eucharist) in which they quoted Jesus who told them ‘eat my body, and drink my blood’. So as time went on they were rumored to be participating in eating a person’s body and drinking his blood, thus they were labeled cannibals. Part of their ceremony consisted also of a feast or meal that they called a ‘love feast’. The men and women participated in a ‘love feast’ and called each other brother and sister, so it was rumored they were having sexual relations with their siblings, thus incestuous.
The point is the early Christians were seen as deviants who hated the Roman Empire and refused to follow some of the important laws. They were incestuous, cannibalistic insurrectionists. So the Roman rulers began to persecute or try to force the Christians to follow the rules. Again, the Romans required worship of the Roman gods, but the Christians refused, so they were imprisoned for their rebellion. It became commonplace for one to be persecuted or know those who were persecuted for their faith. Some of the persecutions from the Roman emperors were empire wide yet most were regional and sporadic. Some of the empire wide persecutions were very severe.
So, since it was common for the followers of Jesus to be arrested and killed for their beliefs, there came a somewhat common notion of Christians having the mentality of wanting to die for Jesus. Many believers saw it as a badge of honor to be imprisoned and potentially lose their life for Jesus. Their reasoning was if Jesus was willing to die for them, then they should be willing to die for their savior.
To sum up all this is to say that one of the first ways of showing dedication to Jesus was to almost seek martyrdom (being persecuted or killed for your faith). In our discussion of how Christians show true devotion to Jesus, one early mindset and worldview was to be willing to die for their savior.