The early Christians did many things we now rely upon the government to do.
What really led the Romans to fear Christians was not anything they did wrong but something important they did right. Welfare was not a value in the Roman Empire. But it was for Christians. Christians regularly and consistently cared for the poor—both Christian and non-Christian. One Roman emperor, Julian, noted that this care for the poor was one thing that made the Christian religion compelling. “Why do we not observe that it is their benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase unbelief of the pagan gods? For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Christians support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.”
The early Christians were also pro-life, and this played out in their commitment to adopt unwanted children. A Roman child was not part of the family until he or she was accepted by the father. If he didn’t want the child, it was discarded: put outside to be killed by starvation, weather, or wild animals. Christians regularly adopted these children and raised them as their own.
Additionally, the early Christians were committed to caring for the sick. A devastating plague decimated the population of the empire in the mid second century. Estimates put the death toll at nearly five million. Remarkably, more Christians than pagans survived the epidemic. This is because Romans were often afraid to care for their sick; they feared catching the contagious disease themselves. So, like their unwanted children, they would leave their unwanted loved ones to die alone. Christians, by contrast, would care for their sick. They didn’t fear sickness or death. And as a result of their care, many of sick Christians survived the epidemic.
Stayed tuned for part 4. If you just can’t wait, you can read the rest here.