23–29 April 2017.
In Acts 16, Paul and his team begin their second missionary journey, travelling from place to place and sharing the good news as they go. But suddenly Paul has a vision of a man in Macedonia calling for their help. Paul knows it’s important to go where there is need. But do they know anyone in Macedonia? Do they have any connections there? And what will they do when they get there? Instead of letting these practical questions get in the way, Paul and his team immediately start on their way.
In his vision, Paul had seen a man calling to him. So as soon as the Sabbath comes, he goes down to the riverside to find the synagogue and the men who worship there. But strangely, the only people he meets are women. In the ancient world, women weren’t seen as so important – but here Paul meets Lydia, a very important woman. Lydia is a wealthy businesswoman with a household and servants, and business deals to make in the city. But whereas the Jewish men seem nowhere to be found, the faithful Lydia makes time to join the other local women in prayer.
Paul shares the gospel story with her, and she immediately opens her heart to the good news of Jesus. But as a good, faithful believer she also opens her home to Paul and his team. We’ve seen many times before how important hospitality was for the ancient believers, and Lydia shows herself to be a perfect example of Christian hospitality.
But even though Lydia encourages the missionaries to come stay with her, they seem to be hesitant. They are a group of men, and she is a lady. They are wandering missionaries, and she is a wealthy businesswoman. They are Jews, and she is Greek. It was strange in the ancient world for people from different groups to mix this way.
But thankfully the team realizes that in the church these differences shouldn’t be important. In Christ we are all one family; we are all the same. There is no way for us to know, but maybe it was this meeting with Lydia that led Paul to learn that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, and no man or woman. We are a family that believes together and lives together, and accepts all people despite our differences.
So after some hesitation, Paul and the team accept Lydia’s kind invitation, and go stay with their newfound sister.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis