Most people are familiar with Emperor Constantine, the Roman Emperor who legitimized Christianity and called the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. However, not as many people are familiar with one of his successors: Julian the Apostate. Flavius Claudius Iulianus was born around 331 AD to the half-brother of Emperor Constantine I. He died on June 26, 363 AD during a battle.
Julian is known as “the Apostate” because he rejected Christianity and attempted to return the Roman Empire to the worship of the pagan gods – which he called “the Hellenic faith”. We only know Julian’s writing “Against the Galileans” because parts were preserved in Cyril of Alexandria’s rebuttal.
What did Julian say about the Christians in the 360’s? Well, we can learn much about those Christians (“Galileans”) by observing Julian’s rebuke of the pagan priests and practitioners:
Why do we not observe that it is their [the Christians’] benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism [unbelief of the pagan gods]?… For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort.
Have we come full circle? It seems that the church is willing to allow the state [pagans] to care for the poor – even poor Christians.
Interestingly, this pagan emperor recognized that it was the lifestyle of the followers of Jesus that was attracting people away from paganism – and, primarily that lifestyle was a lifestyle of service and concern and care for others. I wonder if that same kind of lifestyle would have the same effect today.