Women of Strength
Phoebe, Lydia, and Claudia
As the new religion we now call Christianity spread throughout the Mediterranean region, Gentiles as well as Jews found comfort and meaning in the teachings of Jesus. Thanks to Paul and a few others, new churches were being founded in non-Jewish countries. Home churches were established first. A small group of like-minded people would gather to hear the Good News. As a Christian community grew churches were established, Leaders emerged in these churches and women were included in many church functions. I will highlight only three here, but there were others who paved the way for us today.
The first woman of note is Phoebe. Paul mentions her as a deaconess in the church at Cenchreae. She was to travel to Rome and Paul sent a letter to the Church in Rome telling them to receive her with respect and to help her with whatever she needed. While we don’t know the exact nature of the word deaconess from that time, it is apparent that Phoebe was a committed and active Christian who was always ready to help others. Paul, in fact, mentions that she had been of assistance to him when he visited Cenchreae. Phoebe was a strong woman of faith who stepped up and became a leader in the Church.
Lydia, our second woman, lived in Philippi and was a seller of purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God, but she was unaware of the the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On Paul’s second missionary journey, he had intended to return to Asia, but he was called by God to Mesopotamia. On the way, he met Lydia and others who were gathered by a river to worship, as it was the Sabbath. Apparently, there was no synagogue in Philippi. God opened Lydia’s heart to Paul’s message about Jesus and she and her household were converted to Christianity. She extended hospitality to Paul and his companions during their visit. Lydia was the first recorded Christian conversion in Europe. Lydia could have rejected Paul’s message and discounted it as heresy, but she accepted Jesus as her Savior and Lord instead.
Chloe, our last woman, lived in Corinth. There is little known about her, only a single verse, but the passage is important to the development and health of the Church at Corinth. Chloe was a Christian and probably owned her home. 1 Corinthians 1:11 states that a member of her household reported to Paul of the dissension in the church. This alerted Paul and he dealt the with problems there swiftly and with authority. Two entire chapters of the Bible are devoted to this effort. This was not idle gossip, but a plea from Chloe to Paul of the situation. Chloe likely sent one of her servants to carry the message to Paul. She didn’t procrastinate or think the problems would work themselves out, she took action.
These three women exemplify Christian attributes: leadership, hospitality, peacemaking. All worshiped God and had converted to Christianity. All were strong women who saw a need and filled it; they didn’t wait for others to step forward. These women, who lived two thousand years ago, are still role models for us today.
Prayer: Father, we know you have our best interests and you provide opportunities for us to serve you. Guide us in all we do so our actions are in your perfect will. AMEN