Thursday, October 03, 2013

Care for the Socially Vulnerable in the Early Church—Aristides (2nd century)

Aristides of Athens was a second-century Christian author who wrote an apology addressed to the pagan Roman emperor Hadrian (or Antoninus Pius). The purpose of Aristides’s treatise was to defend the Christian faith against false accusations during the time when the Roman government persecuted Christians. Among other things, Aristides argues that the Christian moral code surpasses the highest ethical ideals of pagan philosophers, especially as manifested by the Church’s concern for the poor and socially vulnerable.
They [Christians] help those who offend them, making friends of them; do good to their enemies. They don’t adore idols; they are kind, good, modest, sincere, they love one another; don’t despise widows; protect the orphans; those who have much give without grumbling, to those in need. When they meet strangers, they invite them to their homes with joy, for they recognize them as true brothers, not natural but spiritual. 
When a poor man dies, if they become aware, they contribute according to their means for his funeral; if they come to know that some people are persecuted or sent to prison or condemned for the sake of Christ’s name, they put their alms together and send them to those in need. If they can do it, they try to obtain their release. When a slave or a beggar is in need of help, they fast two or three days, and give him the food they had prepared for themselves, because they think that he too should be joyful, as he has been called to be joyful like themselves.[i]

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