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The Beginnings of Christianity

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When Christianity first began, it was a small sub sect of the Jewish faith. At the time, Rome ruled the world and pagan practices were the norm. Most of the civilized world worshipped Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, and other gods. Drunkenness and festivals were common in day-to-day life. Women and slaves were viewed as secondary citizens and at such an extreme level that a Greek statesman once remarked:
“We keep prostitutes for pleasure; we keep young female slaves for the day to day needs of the body; we keep wives for the begetting of children and for the faithful guardianship of our homes. So long as a man supported his wife and family there was no shame whatsoever in extra-marital affairs.”

Many Christians found themselves persecuted and tortured for their strange beliefs and due to the fact they welcomed slaves, treated women as equals, and demanded husbands treat their wives with respect and fidelity. Church funds were used to buy the emancipation of Christian slaves. When Roman fathers would leave unwanted children in fields to die, Christians would adopt the children and defy the social structure by caring for them. They lived counter-cultural and showed love, grace, and affection towards those with different beliefs. This perhaps became most evident when multiple plagues struck Rome in 165 AD and later from 251 to 266 AD.
At the height of what became known as the Plague of Cyprian it was estimated some 5,000 people a day were dying in Rome. Many Romans fled the city believing it the anger of the gods. Most nobles, doctors, statesmen, and priests fled the city in hordes leaving the poor to suffer.
Instead of fear and self-preservation, Christians quickly invaded the city and cared for the poor, sick, and dying at great risk to their own lives. What they understood was simple: God loved humanity, and so to love God back, one was supposed to love and care for others just as Jesus did. During this time period, Christians not only buried their own, but also pagans who had died without proper funds for burial. Reports estimate some churches fed 3,000 people daily. Once the plague hit Alexandria, the Christians there risked their lives performing simple deeds of washing the sick, offering food and water, and consoling the dying. Rome tried to even emulate this model, but it failed because for Christians it was done out of love, not duty. Romans began to marvel and often whispered in the streets “look how they love one another.”
Not surprisingly, Christianity rapidly expanded.


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