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Jul. 12, 2023 | St. Mary's Foundation
by Bradley Burck

Lydia: Hospitable Leader – Weekly Devotional for St. Mary’s Medical Center

Seeds of Faith By Chaplain Greg Creasy

Seeds of Faith Devotional

The woman called Lydia.

Paul was on his second missionary journey when he had a vision that told him to go to Macedonia. The apostle responded to the vision by gathering his team and quickly setting off. Luke, the author of Acts, records that Paul’s first ministry encounter in Philippi was with a group of women including a woman called Lydia.

It was typical for Paul to begin a mission in each new city by connecting with the local Jewish population there. This time was no exception. Paul and his team had already spent a few days in the city when, on the Sabbath day, they went outside the city gates in search of a Jewish place of prayer. It seems that Philippi did not have a recognized synagogue, but they did have a house of prayer. Many synagogues and prayer-houses were built near water sources to allow for ritual washings and this house of prayer was at the river’s edge.

Before we get too far into this story…

It is important to stop and think about the significance of Paul and his people stopping to talk with this group of women. Jesus and Paul had not hesitated to minister to people of both sexes, from all stations of life. Jesus and Paul had no difficulty in teaching theology to women, and they allowed women to minister according to their abilities and their situations without artificial restrictions. Paul continued his mission in that pattern which was, by the way, in contrast with the Jewish Law.

Having been trained by the Jews to be a leader among Jews, Paul would have been well acquainted with their views of women. The rabbis were known to say, “It is better that the words of the Law be burned that be delivered to a woman.” To further complicate the situation, inscribed on the arches outside the city of Philippi was a prohibition against bringing an unrecognized religion into the city. Paul and his team were radical to say the least. And the women put themselves at risk for listening.

Lydia’s Name

Women in Bible times were often identified by their relationship to a man: a father, a husband, an adult son, or even a brother. Luke specifically mentions Lydia by name when he does not name other women, or men for that matter. Lydia’s name is significant and so is her story.

We are told Lydia was a seller of purple, that is, she was a businesswoman who sold luxury textiles dyed purple. Purple was a symbol of royalty and wealth. Tyrian purple (named after the city Lydia was from) was a dye derived from marine mollusks and was especially costly. Lydia’s wealth is also indicated by the fact that she seems to have been the owner and mistress of her own home. In Acts 16:15, which begins with, “When she and her household were baptized . . .” makes it clear that it was her household. There is no mention of a husband or a father in her story.

Whatever Her Marital Status

Lydia’s home was large enough to accommodate Paul and his fellow missionaries (who included Silas, Timothy, and possibly Luke and others) as well as her own people. It was large enough to hold church meetings. It was in Lydia’s home that the church at Philippi first gathered (Acts 16:40).
Lydia’s hospitality and her support of Paul and his ministry required courage. Having a group of foreign men stay in her house could have caused scandal. Hosting meetings where they worshipped a new Jewish messiah, and not an emperor or any of the ancient and respected pagan gods, could have ruined her reputation and her business. Receiving Paul and Silas into her home after they were released from prison and asked to leave town, was very brave.

Paul and his team may have spent several weeks staying with Lydia (Luke 10:5-7). During that time, she was educated and encouraged by the apostle so that she was equipped to care for the church when Paul moved on to bring the gospel to other Macedonian cities. Furthermore, she seems to have been a spiritually receptive person. We know “the Lord opened Lydia’s heart” (Acts 16:14b NIV), and so it is probable the Spirit gave her spiritual gifts and abilities to help her in ministry (Acts 2:18; 1 Cor. 12:4). Lydia played a pioneer role in the early church and was a strategic player at the forefront of extending the gospel of Christ.

What We Should Learn

Lydia was clearly an untraditional woman whose initiative, courage, business sense, and hospitality helped to begin the church at Philippi. God looked beyond the way others judge and even social norms and saw the heart of a person who loved Him and could change the lives around her. How exciting that Lydia is the first European convert to Christianity! We should never be afraid to be on the forefront for God.

Do we quickly allow the circumstances and imposed limitations in life to overwhelm us and keep us from achieving what we should for God? Lydia didn’t and neither should we. We should not let our race, gender, or any other identifier limit what God can do through us.
O Lord,

There are so many times when I allow distractions to keep me from moving forward in my relationship with You.

Prayer

I pray that today, You give me a clear focus and great resolve to walk in Your steps and follow Your leading in my life. Help me to listen more than I speak, as I wait in Your voice to give me direction.

Amen.

SMMC Chaplains

© 2023 Greg and Robin Creasy