Centurion painting at the National Gallery

The conflict of Cornelius, National Art Gallery

Most of us are enthralled by a good story. Seldom, though, do we get the whole story. We get only a small snippet of the timeframe and the action. The part of the story that leads up to that moment and all that happened afterward doesn’t make it to the history we choose to remember.

In addition, we all have this habit of listening with intent only to the part that we find interesting or valuable to our circumstances.  I seldom remember more than a single story or two from the front page of the news, and I think I am normal.

God knew this to be a part of our design when he wrote the Bible. For example, we are never told what happened on the 8th day of creation.  It might have been something big, but we don’t know. Seven days of events were all we needed to know about.

Yet that fact of our being does nothing to slow down our capacity to wonder and ask the question, “what if?”

I have been working on my 5th published book this am, and I found a character whose story has engaged the portion of my mind that creates a fantasy. He came up as a character in my first book, but now he is the main character in this book.

Cornelius gets a small portion of Acts 10, and we only hear about a moment of his life when Simon Peter came to visit him. We read that he was changed, and we are taught that this event opened the door to Jesus becoming available to the common man. Yet, we get no stories about what happened after Simon Peter left the Roman leader.

There is no indication that he quit his day job or the Roman Empire, for starters. Cornelius was the centurion of Caesarea, meaning he had responsibility for 100 soldiers and the funding from Rome’s coffers to act as the battering ram of the Roman Empire in Judah. As a centurion, he acted as chief of police, and he doubled as the magistrate, hearing all cases that required justice.  In today’s world, the executive and judicial branches are often considered in conflict.  In ancient Rome, no such thinking existed. Add to the list of responsibilities that he was the head of all the tax collectors. By some estimates, Caesarea had over 100,000 people, and it was a transit point for merchants from around the world. Administration of all these was his day job.

He had to perform all of these roles as a new follower of Christ. This creates conflicts between work and faith that none living today can wrap their heads around.

Can you imagine sentencing men to death by crucifixion after learning that your savior died via crucifixion? He did it a few times a week. I cannot.

Can you imagine the burden of collecting taxes from those who could not pay them and punishing them for it while believing in a God of forgiveness and second chances? He did. I cannot.

Finally, all centurions knew that Rome expected them to lead by example, especially regarding crime management. It was expected that he behead criminals of ill repute publicly when the situation called for it. Today, I can’t imagine a Christian man doing this. He could, and he did.

I have decided to place myself in his shoes and describe what all of these internal struggles are like as he teaches his nephew how to be a centurion.

Anticipated publishing date: Fall, 2022