Tertullian, a Christian writer from the 2nd century, gives us an insight into the hearts of early believers. He reported that the Romans would exclaim, “See how they love one another!”
Justin Martyr, another Christian leader from about the same time as Tertullian, gives us another glimpse into Christian love. He writes, “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.”
Another early church leader Clement of Alexandria described the person who has come to know God: “He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.”
When a devastating plague swept across the ancient world in the third century, Christians were the only ones who cared for the sick, which they did at the risk of contracting the plague themselves. Meanwhile, pagans were throwing infected members of their own families into the streets even before they died, in order to protect themselves from the disease.
It is that compassion the church needs to recapture! It is that compassion that led a pagan world to see that Christianity was real. It is that compassionate faith that caused the name of Jesus to spread like wildfire through the Roman Empire and beyond. It is the compassion that the world desperately needs.