“The Trouble with the Philippians” the city tour continues (pt5)

by Craig on March 7, 2011

The last couple of posts have been about how Roman society was extremely top heavy and that ALL of the power was in the hands of  3% of the population – the “elite”. This meant that 97% of the people had to bow at the feet of the of the elite just to keep a roof over their heads.

Competition for the favor of these elite was more than fierce. It was often like rats in water, climbing all over each other just to stay afloat, not caring that they were drowning the rats upon which they climbed.

To make things worse, these people tended not to like Christianity very much. What, with all the talk of “neither rich nor poor, slave nor free”. They liked having all the power and weren’t eager to give it up.

We’ve been touring Philippi as Paul would have, his first day in town. There were no Christians there yet. But today I’ll move the clock forward a few years – after a church of about 50 people had been founded.

Lets say there’s a Christian carpenter and he’s decided to go public with his faith. So he takes down the idols of the gods in the front of the store. All of the stores had them. But his would now be different.

He fashions a simple Cross – nothing ornate – just a Cross – and he places it where the statues of the gods used to be.

A slave of a rich patron comes in to the  place. A new villa is being built just down the hillside. outside the gates of the city – in that farmland we passed on the way into town. An agreement is made. It’s enough income to survive on for years to come – for him and his extended family.

But the slave notices the cross in the front of the store. He doesn’t make any mention of it. It’s not his place. He knows that his “status” is below that of a store owner. He doesn’t much like the fact that he’s not considered as worthy as a carpenter. Who likes always being reminded of how inferior they are?

Is this maybe why, when he returns to the household, he spreads the news that he knows will cause trouble? He shares it with a kitchen slave, who chats with a personal slave of the patron.

Who then blurts it out in the presence of the patron…

as she’s entertaining a few of her favorite priests…

of Apollo, and Ceres, and Diana.

The rich courted the priests, for blessings, and curses, and fortune telling. To curry favor with them was currying favor with the gods.

Let’s say the patron doesn’t really have any strong feelings about this either way. She’s only interested in the craftsmanship. She really doesn’t care much for the gods either – but she plays the part.

This Christian does good work.

The prettier her villa…

the more guests will stay there…

and the more status she will build.

It’s a practical move for her.

But the priests are insulted.

It doesn’t take much of an outrage to get her to change her mind.

Nobody made ripples in the system – not even the elite.

The slave is sent back to the carpenter and the agreement is canceled.

But this is just the beginning of the trouble.

A band of ten hulking, brutish types are paid by the priests and dispatched to the carpenter’s business.

Things are about to get much, much, worse.

There didn’t have to be all out public persecution of Christians.

It wasn’t all lions in the Colosseum.

Sometimes it was something like this.

Please come back tomorrow as the story continues…

 

God bless.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymuss March 7, 2011 at 8:01 am

These things you are revealing here add gravity to what I read in the NT. Those believers did not have soft circumstances so their faith, in the face of such opposition, is all the more remarkable.

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Anonymuss March 7, 2011 at 8:20 am

Craig, thank you for taking the time to find such helpful and appropriate pictures! Your efforts and the countless hours are much appreciated!

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Craig March 7, 2011 at 9:05 am

I see you read one of the “early bird” editions – sans pictures – and came back to see them. Thank you A. I’m glad they added to the words. Not all Christians had it as tough as Philippi – and yet while they had it so tough – they were the jewel of the early churches. Go figure. God Bless you A.

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Debbie March 7, 2011 at 9:41 am

Sometimes it seems like persecution makes the church even stronger. And I never really thought in depth about the early church persecution. Thank you for giving me the right perspective! God bless you and the work He’s given you to do!

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Craig March 7, 2011 at 10:30 am

It’s like the tough times make us stronger too. No? The persecution for the first 300 years wasn’t all the time, was not all throughout the Empire, not, as I say all “lions and coliseums” – but it was always there – always there. Thank you Deb. God Bless you as always.

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Dianna McBride March 7, 2011 at 9:46 am

Reading this today brings back so many memories that I didn’t realize still remained in this head and heart of mine, Craig. In my several visits to a country south of us I saw the “idols” in front of places of business and peoples homes. I’ve also witnessed with my own eyes the freedom witches had to set up booths in front of places of business, as well as the gathering of people they brought. Although I wasn’t there to witness the curse being said over my daughter and son-in-law’s home I know it happened. Their crime? Being a Christian and daring to share the gospel. It helps me to better understand what these early Christians suffered when they were totally committed to the cause and took down the idols. Thank you so much for sharing all of the history and background!

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Craig March 7, 2011 at 10:32 am

Wow Dianna I’m imagining which country – I think I have a few picked out. I can see it too. What a special insight into this you have. A curse too – that’s coming up in the story – shhhhhhhhhh. God Bless you Dianna – and thank you so much.

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Rie March 7, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Okay, I’m enjoying this very much. Can’t wait for tomorrow!

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Craig March 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Thank you Rie – thank you for coming and reading and commenting – I hope I don’t disappoint :) God Bless you.

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Michelle March 8, 2011 at 4:58 am

We care so much about what people think of us, don’t we.

Praise God for God (!) and that it is His reputation at stake and not mine. Makes some decisions a whole lot easier.

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Craig March 8, 2011 at 5:20 am

Amen Michelle – we always have – and always will – until that day. More of him less of me. God Bless.

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