Julian the Apostate hated Christians, but he was undeniably attracted to something about them. He once wrote,
“Why do we not observe that it is their [the Christians’] benevolence to strangers, their care for the graves of the dead, and the pretended holiness of their lives that have done most to increase atheism [unbelief of the pagan gods]? For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious Galileans [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us. Teach those of the Hellenic faith to contribute to public service of this sort.”
Despite being a pagan, Julian understands the necessity of one of the central practices of Christian life: serving others. For most of us, our first impulse isn’t to serve others. More often, at least for me, we spend our time trying to figure out how we can get others to serve us. Ask my wife – somehow I’ve always got something really important to do right around the time the dishes need to be done! When it comes to serving, it’s easy to have the mentality that someone else will do it. We come up with excuses and justifications as to why our help isn’t necessary. But is it?
It certainly was to the early Christians, and Julian understood this. The life of the Christian was different. Not only did Christians take care of and provide for each other, but they also did the same for the unbelieving Romans. As much as Julian loathed these Christians, he couldn’t deny the attractiveness of this part of their lifestyle. This reminds of John 13:34-35.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The way that we Christians treat each other, the way we love one another, the way we serve one another and unbelievers in our lives is a testimony to the world we are disciples of Christ. Following Jesus should motivate us to live differently. Our desire should be to love and serve one another, because Christ has done this first and foremost in our life. What Julian might not have realized was that he was attracted to the very thing that Christ entered into our world for.
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:35
Why serve? Well, because it’s one of the primary ways people will know we are followers of Jesus. But what about you? Are others attracted to the way you live your life? Is it different than the unbelievers around you? Do you honestly desire to serve others? What are ways you can more faithfully serve others in your classes, dorms, fraternities & sororities, etc? Answering these questions can be hard, but Jesus commands us to do so.