From Galilee to Asia

The remains of the towns and villages of Galilee give evidence to the simple lifestyle of the Jewish people of the first century. Few were wealthy or poor. Most were hardworking people living comfortable lives as extended families. Their homes were plain and well built with rough cobblestone floors. The only public buildings were synagogues used as schools and community and worship centers. Streets were normally unpaved and water was carried from springs or wells nearby. There were no sewers. Simple people committed to God, living simple but content lives…that was first century Galilee.
The ruins of the cities of the Roman province of Asia Minor from the same period are stunning in contrast. The people of these communities, largely gentile, were surrounded by great wealth and amazing architecture. Many were wealthy, living in villas and impressive family estates. Their homes were elaborate, often decorated with mosaic floors, frescoed walls, and marble columns around peristyle courtyards. There were many very large public buildings: theaters, temples, libraries and gymnasia, baths and brothels. Streets were paved and lined with extensive shopping areas. Public fountains were everywhere bringing fresh water to every part of the community. Many homes had running water and every city had a covered sewer system. Wealthy pagan people who were very religious living in luxury and decadence… that was first century Asia Minor.

It is most amazing that a few people from among the simple Galileans traveled to Asia Minor and by their words and the witness of their lives introduced an almost total change in the beliefs and lifestyle of wealthy pagans. Scholars believe there were 80,000 or more followers of Jesus by the year 100 and by the year 200 the province of Asia Minor was largely Christian. How was this possible? The most pagan province of the Roman world? Ordinary Galileans as the messengers? An almost complete change of culture? Clearly, the power of God was at work.

What can we learn from these amazing events? How can today’s followers of Jesus make a similar impact on our culture… a culture remarkably similar to that of Asia Minor? The answer lies in part in Scripture, in part in the world of Galilee, and also in the world of Asia Minor. The greater the knowledge of the culture of Asia Minor, the clearer is God’s call to live radically Christian lives in our own world. Living confidently for God in the middle of paganism is an opportunity for the awesome power of God to impact our own world.

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