Subverting Power Structures with the Love of Christ

Infanticide (killing baby within a year of birth) was a surprisingly common, casual, and accepted practice in ancient Greece and Rome (and most elsewhere) among both the rich and poor. It was often done if the baby was seen as weak, if it just happened to be a girl, or any other reason of undesirability. The most common way of killing was to just leave the baby out in the street to die gradually; this way it made parents feel like they weren’t directly killing them. Sometimes it was done for sacrifice, too. The pagans looked at Jews and Christians with surprise and criticism when they found that such practices were considered evil and murder by the values of the one true God. In fact, the early Christians gained a reputation for routinely going out and taking in the abandoned babies in the streets and raising them, a monumentally difficult and loving undertaking. They did this because they knew that God created all people in his image, and so all have value and dignity (and because God specifically said not to do such things).

The early Christians also gained a reputation for caring for the poor, not just their own but also the pagan poor people around them. The pagan Roman Emperor Julius the Apostate, who hated Christians, at least admitted this:

“These impious Galileans (Christians) not only feed their own, but ours also; welcoming them with their agape, they attract them, as children are attracted with cakes… Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans devote themselves to works of charity, and by a display of false compassion have established and given effect to their pernicious errors. Such practice is common among them, and causes contempt for our gods.”

Emperor Julius and others were concerned that Christian lifestyles would present such a contrast to their own culture’s that Christianity (and its superior ethics and truth) would eventually spread and undermine their imperial power. And it did. Christ’s spiritual kingdom spread like wildfire. Those Christians spread the faith and subverted the elite power structure and conquered evil and the enemy, not with worldly conceptions of force and coercion and military victories, but by practicing love and speaking truth through the power of Jesus Christ.

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