Rome is a very strict hierarchical system, in which the emperor is at the pinnacle, all the way up and then all the blessings in the world that come to people come down from above. And if you're at the bottom of that social pyramid, not a whole lot of things are coming down to you anymore. Now the Christian community, as we have it particularly in the letters of Paul, begins with a formula that is a baptismal formula, which says in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free.
This is a sociological formula that defines a new community. If they are sick, there is an elder who will lay on hands to them to heal them.
Here is a community that invites you, which makes you an equal with all other members of that community. On the contrary, it gives even the lowliest slave personal dignity and status. That is, the care for each other becomes very important. WELFARE INSTITUTIONS Now we have increasingly in the Christian churches, in the time up to Constantine, the establishment of hospitals, of some kind of health service, we have a clear establishment of social service - everything from soup kitchens to money for the poor if they need it.
We have the very important establishment of the institution of widows, because a widow in the Roman society who had lost her husband and did not have money of her own was at the very bottom of the social ladder.
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One of the first welfare institutions we find in the church was all the widows who were recognized as virgins of the church, considered particularly precious possessions of the church; they were paid by the church and therefore were rescued from utter poverty in most instances.
Christianity really established a realm of mutual social support for the members that joined the church.
They say "We're just as ethical as you, or better but in terms of what you Romans think are the ideal virtues of society.
We Christians are practicing Roman family values just like you."So there not really holding themselves apart from Roman society in quite the same way as we might have expected.