In the 4th Century, Roman Emperor Julian was bent on returning Rome back to it’s roots and away from the newly appointed Christian faith.
It had been less than 50 years since Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and made it the official religion of the State and Julian was set to return his country back to it’s roots.
In an effort to drive Christianity out of Rome’s “ruling class,” Julian restored pagan temples which had been confiscated since Constantine’s time, repealed the stipends that Constantine had awarded to Christian bishops, and removed their other privileges, including a right to be consulted on appointments and to act as private courts.
And in February 4, 362, Julian proclaimed a new law guaranteeing freedom of religion across Rome.
The new law proclaimed that all the religions were equal before the State and that the Roman Empire would return to its original ideals of all religions being equally accepted and where the Roman state did not impose any religion on its provinces.
Unfortunately for Julian and despite his best efforts, Christianity continued to flourish (strengthening the argument that the Church grows best when it’s not in the seat of power).
Julian wrote of the Christians:
These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agape, they attract them, as children are attracted, with cakes… Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors. See their love-feasts and their tables spread for the indigent. Such practice is common among them and causes a contempt for our gods.
Seeing the affect the Christians had on the Roman citizens, Julian encouraged the pagan priests to start their own charities to care for Rome’s needy.
How generous must the Christians have been for it to lead the government to care more for it’s citizens?
Rob Bell says in Velvet Elvis that Christianity should be good news for everyone. Not just good news that you get to spend eternity in heaven, but good news for the single mom next door, the Athiest down the street, the Muslim at work, the under-resourced in your city – everyone.
The love and generosity that grows out of our faith should have amazing positive impacts on everyone around us.
And obviously in the past – it has.
What would it take for that kind of generosity to take place in our communities of faith?
How would it change your family to see you living out that kind of generosity?
What would your neighbors think? What would it do to your neighborhood? And your city?
“When we truly learn to love, socialism won’t be necessary and capitalism won’t be possible.” – Shane Claiborne