Offensive kindness

Julian the Apostate was a 4th century Roman emperor and a convert from Christianity to paganism (hence the epithet ‘apostate’). To put it  nicely, he didn’t like Christians, and made many efforts to undermine the Christian faith. For example, he  “always calls the Christians Galilaeans because he wishes to emphasise that this was a local creed, ‘the creed of fishermen,’ and perhaps to remind his readers that ‘out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.’”  [Source]

What he couldn’t get around, though, was the love Jesus’ followers had for each other and for those outside the Christian community. In a letter aimed at reviving paganism, he writes:

The religion of the Greeks does not yet prosper as I would wish, on account of those who profess it. […] Why then do we … not observe how the kindness of Christians to strangers, their care for the burial of their dead, and the sobriety of their lifestyle has done the most to advance their cause?

Each of these things, I think, ought really to be practiced by us. It is not sufficient for you alone to practice them, but so must all the priests in Galatia without exception. […]

Erect many hostels, one in each city, in order that strangers may enjoy my kindness, not only those of our own faith but also of others whosoever is in want of money. […] For it is disgraceful when no Jew is a beggar and the impious Galileans support our poor in addition to their own; everyone is able to see that our coreligionists are in want of aid from us. Teach also those who profess the Greek religion to contribute to such services, and the villages of the Greek religion to offer the first-fruits to the gods. Accustom those of the Greek religion to such benevolence, teaching them that this has been our work from ancient times. […] Do not therefore let others outdo us in good deeds while we ourselves are disgraced by laziness; rather, let us not quite abandon our piety toward the gods…


Looks like the believers in Julian’s day took seriously the apostle Peter’s exhortation to “live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). Their love and kindness were undeniable, even to their critics.

What about us today?

HT: One of Tim Keller’s sermons.