Each year on October 12, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Martyrs Probus, Tarachus and Andronicus. These three Christians were martyred in 304AD at a time when the Roman Empire had begun it persecution of Christians. The Empire tried to intimidate Christians, through threats of torture and death, into renouncing their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. Though Christianity was a minority group, the Empire began to feel threatened by this new religion and its moral values and heavenly ideals which were in opposition to the Empire’s own sense of power.
Many Christians were willing to die for their beliefs rather than to deny Christ or worship the Emperor as God or to kowtow to the power of the Empire itself. Those early Christians did not organize an armed rebellion against their oppressors but rather professed faith in Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, rejecting all claims that the Roman Empire made over their lives. The Christians did not threaten bloodshed, retribution or revenge. Rather they courageously and boldly denied the world and its values and embraced the Kingdom which is not of this world.
The Christian Apologist Arnobius (d. 330AD) writing shortly after these martyrs deaths, explained why Christians accept martyrdom rather than taking up arms against their Roman persecutors:
“We, a numerous band of men as we are, have learned from His [i.e., Christ’s] teaching and His laws that evil ought not to be requited with evil, that it is better to suffer wrong than to inflict it, that we should rather shed our own blood than stain our hands and our conscious with that of another. An ungrateful world is now for a long period enjoying a benefit from Christ, inasmuch as by His means the rage of savage ferocity has been softened, and has begun to withhold hostile hands from the blood of a fellow-creature.” (Arnobius in For the Peace from Above edited by Fr. Hildo Bos, p 108)