By Joel A Hess –
The wonderful story of Luke and Paul’s meeting with Lydia in Philippi (Acts 16:40-17:1) blows apart so many false notions of Christianity.
Lydia is clearly a successful woman, likely a widow or divorced, who runs a company. Luke doesn’t mention a husband and clearly associates her with the sole proprietor of a purple goods store. Luke doesn’t make special notice about this fact because it wasn’t a complete social shock back then. Raised on the history channel and textbooks written by bureaucrats in Chicago, most Americans believe that before 2019 women were kept pregnant in the kitchen.
Lydia did not come to faith by her own will. Luke specifically says, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to Paul’s words.” We are so blind by sin that it is impossible to believe the Good News of Christ even as it is plain right in front of us. We need His external hand to rescue us and open our eyes to see and hear His words of peace and hope.
Lydia forced her religion on her whole household. Well, maybe not forced, but she certainly didn’t go to each member and ask them if they would like to be a Christian. Just like she ran her business, she made it happen. Lydia is large and in charge. After being given the gift of forgiveness and eternal life in Christ, she couldn’t help but give it to those she loved! This likely included those who worked for her. If you’re in Lydia’s house, you went to church.
The Good News creates community, crosses barriers, connects enemies! Jesus broke through the barriers that separate holy and unholy, Divine and sinner, Immortal and mortal. In our flesh He died. In our flesh He rose. The curtain was torn in two at His death. Our sins that separated us from our God have been paid for and forgotten in the blood of Christ. We, sons and daughters, have been welcomed back into the house with a ring, a robe and a party. Yet the Gospel of Jesus does not just bring us back to the Father. It also brings us back to one another. The division between Jew and gentile is gone. The division between man and woman is gone. The division between sinners and sinned against is gone! Lydia immediately invites Paul and Luke to stay at her house! “If you really think I’m a Christian, then you better stay with me,” she says. Luke reiterates, and she persuaded us!
Thank God for Lydias. We have so many in our churches. From my mother to so many others, God has grown His church through these “get ‘er done” women who won’t take no for an answer. Grandmas hauling every kid in the neighborhood to VBS. Double shift working women stepping over their husbands with a child in each hand rushing off to Sunday school. Moms persuading their foolish sons coming home from their sophomore year of college thinking they were existentialists.
Our Lord has probably opened up more hearts through these Lydias than all the pious church fathers and passionate preachers on our bookshelves.