Appian Way south of Rome – one location of Christian catacomb burials
“Atheism (i.e. Christian faith) has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.”
Roman Emperor Julian (332-63) – Church History in Plain Language – Bruce L. Shelley
Emperor Julian, after Roman Emperor Constantine, was attempting to bring revival of the traditional Roman pagan religion when he made this observation. He wanted to set aside Christianity and bring back the ancient faith, but he saw clearly the drawing power of Christian love. Christians were called “atheist” by the Romans because they did not believe in Emperor worship.
Mr. Shelley says the following in reference to early Christians providing burials for the dead.
“One expression of Christian love had a particularly far-reaching effect. The church often provided burial service for poor brethren. Christians felt that to deprive a person of honorable burial was a terrible thing. Lactantius, the North African scholar (C.240-320) wrote, “We will not allow the image and creation of God [the human body] to be thrown out to the wild beasts and the birds as their prey; it must be given back to the earth from which it was taken.””
This self-sacrificial love for people is said to be one of the reasons that the Gospel spread so fast in the beginning. The testimony of this pagan Emperor bears witness to the words of the Lord Jesus:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13: 34-35 emphasis mine)
May we manifest His love for others as we go about our days.
God Bless You!