The Army of Compassion

Good samaritan

With our national welfare system facing bankruptcy, it is time to remember that Christian mercy and compassion provided for the poor and needy in America for almost three hundred years – without government assistance! This Christian army of compassion was birthed in the Roman Empire, incubated in Europe, and was most fully expressed in America. This story provides clues to solving the crises of America’s unsustainable government welfare system.

Mention the ancient Roman Empire and many Americans envision a lifestyle of incredible riches and luxurious villas on the Mediterranean. This fantasy is far from the truth. What was life really like for the everyday Roman, living in the “eternal city”? Rome and other cities of the empire “were far more crowded, crime-infested, filthy, disease-ridden and miserable than are the worst cities in the world today” according to historian Rodney Stark. There was only one private house for every 26 blocks of tenements. Most people lived in tenements made of “wattle and daub” (mud and stakes) that were built as high as seven stories and only a few feet apart. Open fires were the only source of heating and cooking, which brought constant dread of massive infernos that often consumed whole sections of the city.

Polytheism, the religion that dominated the ancient world, offered little hope to the people. With thousands of merciless gods (such as Zeus) and a long succession of emperors who demanded worship and crushing taxes, the life of the individual had little value. Mercy and compassion were considered character defects by the philosophers of Greece and Rome. Without the hope of heaven or the fear of judgment, people of the empire lived in a culture of death. Murder, suicide, infanticide, and depression permeated the empire.

Dr. D. James Kennedy documents that, “Antiquity has left no trace of any organized charitable effort”. Speaking of the frequent epidemics of the time, Bishop Dionysius, an eye witness in 251 A.D., says “At the first onset of the disease, they [pagans] pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest [family], throwing them into the roads before they were dead.”

Into this dying world, a conquering army, representing a new kingdom with a new King, began to fill the empire! This army of reconciliation was transformed and empowered by the risen Christ. The Law of God and His virtues were implanted in their hearts and minds. Their bravery and charity became legendary throughout the empire and whole cities, such as Antioch, began to surrender to their loving power.

Read the rest at World History Institute