The experience of Christians in the first few centuries of the Christian church was characterized by great persecutions. The Roman government`s attitude to the early church may be understood as a continuum: there was a measure of toleration or indifference at first, but then the distinctiveness of Christian worship and loyalty soon put the Christians on a collision course with the Roman authorities. Christianity was declared by the Romans as religio illicita, which implies that the Christian religion was illegal. One cardinal reason for this was Christians` refusal to worship the emperor as deity. Many faithful Christians who were unwilling to compromise their faith were martyred in the process in a most horrible manner. While some were burnt at the stake, others were thrown to hungry lions. Contemporary Christians may benefit a great deal from the early church`s response to persecution. They may learn the lessons of the power of non-violent action, suffering for Christ and unfeigned love in the face of persecution. Persecution may indeed be a painful experience but it helps to purify the church and emboldens her to carry out its mission.