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July 01, 2005

This Week in Church History

June 27, 363

Though there is some arguement over the exact date (some sources say June 26), there is no mistaking the importance of this date.

The day that Julian the Apostate died in battle.

"You have conquered, O Galilean," were his dying words (again, according to many sources). Julian was not an emperor who was favorable to Christians, even though Christianity was officially recognized by Constantine years before Julian came to the throne. When he finally took over the empire, Julian was determined to restore the pagan practices of his ancestors to prominence throughout the known world.

He didn't have a lot of opposition. Things hadn't been very good since the Christians took over -- wars, famine, disease, etc. People thought that the gods had forsaken them because they allowed this new faith to flourish. So Julian's notion of getting rid of the Christians was accepted by many in the empire.

Interestingly, Julian's own hatred of Christians seems to stem from a bad experience with someone who claimed the name of Christ. A corrupt 'Christian' emperor killed Julian's family in an attempt to eliminate a threat to his throne. Julian never forgot -- and never forgave.

It's easy to look at Julian the Apostate and say that he deserved everything he got -- including his nickname. But let's play "What If ..." for a moment. What if that 'Christian' had been a true believer -- of id he was, what if he had lived according to the principles of the Christ he served? What if Julian had seen compassion from Christians, and not hatred and murder?

Julian arranged for the poor to be taken care of -- all the poor, not just those who shared his beliefs. One thing that Christians had done was turn their backs on the poor and needy who were not Christians -- though they took very good care of their own. Pagans saw this lack of concern and wanted no part of it. Julian saw it and decided that his official religion would do a better job of showing compassion to people. What if those pagan people had seen true Christian compassion?

Julian was brought up as a Christian. He rejected this faith because he saw what it wasn't doing. How often is that all we show to people? The lesson we can learn from this tragic period in the history of the Church is to never lose an opportunity to minister to those who are in need. People who are starving do not listen very well. They do not hear our words when they do not see our deeds. We must preach the word, but we lose the opportunity when we fail to meet the needs of those around us.

Posted by Warren Kelly at July 1, 2005 08:46 PM | TrackBack
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