“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander (I Peter 3:15, 16).”
In the biblical epic movie Quo Vadis Marcus Vinicius is a handsome Roman commander who falls head over heels with Lygia, a beautiful daughter of a retired general. Marcus learns she was originally a foreign princess taken as a hostage during a war and convinces Emperor Nero to give her to him. What Marcus doesn’t know is that Lygia is a Christian. He discovers this when other Christians arrange her escape. Marcus watches a Christian ceremony where Lygia is present and where the apostles Peter and Paul speak. He then follows Lygia and her bodyguard out of the meeting. During the melee to recover her Marcus is injured, and knocked unconsious. Lygia, who is attracted to Marcus despite his overbearing pursuit of her, nurses him back to health in her hideaway.
When he awakes Marcus can’t grasp the beliefs of Lygia and her friends. First, Lygia’s bodyguard confesses to killing one of Marcus’s thugs and asks him for forgiveness. Instead, Marcus congratulates him. In fact, he can’t understand why Lygia’s bodyguard didn’t kill him, too. When told it is a sin in Christianity to kill, Marcus still doesn’t get it, suggesting that they should have. As Marcus prepares to leave, he sets Lygia free. She then acknowledges her love for him and when he asks her to marry him, she agrees.
At this point, Lygia’s beliefs confuse Marcus again. She asks him to let the apostle Paul “say words” over them. Marcus believes Lygia has heard enough of his “words”. Lygia asks if he heard Peter and Paul say anything wrong at the Christian gathering he observed. Marcus says he heard an old man speak “riddles” and tells Lygia, ” Believe as they do and you’ll think a cow is a bull, and a bull is an ox and an ox is a goat.” Marcus says that he’ll accept Lygia’s God if it makes her happy and offers to build a monument to Christ. But when Lygia tells Marcus that one day she hopes “the image of Christ appears in your heart”, he tells her that his heart is only for her and that there is no room in it otherwise. Lygia replies, “There will be. I always carry Him in mine with you.” Marcus tells her he won’t compete with any man and admonishes her to “get rid of him”.
Paul then appears and tries to explain the nature of the love of God to Marcus, but he accuses God of being weak. When Lygia pleads with Marcus to try to understand her beliefs, and not to force her to choose, he does just that. Marcus accuses Paul of spreading poison, and asks Lygia if she’s coming. Lygia tells Marcus she won’t go with him. Marcus threatens Paul and leaves.
Lygia and Paul did their best to explain their faith to Marcus, but he couldn’t or wouldn’t understand. When Marcus held to his belief system, Lygia held her ground. She obviously was familiar with Paul’s teaching “not to be yoked together with unbelievers” and followed it (II Corinthians 6:14). Lygia did the right thing by refusing marriage to Marcus. They couldn’t have been compatible. Marcus himself noted that in his view the teachings of Peter and Paul distorted reality when he made his “cow is a bull.. bull is an ox, etc.” comment. Marcus’s bull hitched to Lygia’s goat would have made functioning together in marriage impossible.
A believer should always be ready to defend his or her faith. While we can always pray for a positive response, it may not come. The answer to rejection is not to team up with the unbeliever to bring them around. It’s best to let them go their way and trust God to continue working in their heart.