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Christianity, Its Origin and Significance

Introduction

Christianity developed in the mid-first century in Judea following the teachings of Jesus. Later, the missionary work and writings of Paul of Taurus also made an impact in its spread. Initially, this religion was viewed as a small and disorganized sect that, among other things, pledged personal salvation after ones’ death. This period was characterized by high intolerance of any religion against some of the ancient Jewish traditions. As a result, many Christians were persecuted, especially under tyrannical Roman Emperors such as Nero (54-68), Domitian (81-96), and Diocletian (284-305) (Francopan, 2018). During these leaders’ reign, being a Christian was viewed as an illegal act that attracted severe punishment. In this era, many Christian converts such as St. Alban, Bishop Polycarp, among others died for their faith. Despite facing much resistance, Christianity ultimately managed to positively impact the Roman Empire by ensuring freedom of religion, limiting imperial power, and fostering care for the powerless.

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Freedom of Religion

Through the passing of the Edict of Milan in 313 by Constantine and Licinius, Christianity was made official religion in the Roman Empire. This marked the end of persecution of Christians and eradicated religious tensions (Francopan, 2018). The proclamation stated that every person was free to worship in whichever way they chose to. It further stated that the empire would be blessed by any deity that was in charge (Francopan, 2018). This was a major milestone in the separation of church and state. Without the birth of Christianity, gaining such freedom would be unthinkable especially during those days when people’s way of life was dictated by the government. The edict was, therefore, a remarkable contribution to the freedom of worship, which is currently unhealthy in many countries across the world. With the approval of the government, the influence of Christianity was felt throughout the Roman Empire. Besides, the efforts of the Christian missionaries were also instrumental in influencing many people to confess their faith in Jesus Christ and believe in salvation.

Limit of Empirical Power

The widespread of Christianity reduced the imperial power, which had dominated the Roman Empire. Following the edict on religious freedom, Constantine became less dictatorial compared to his predecessors. This was to a larger extent as a result of how he endeavored to organize Christianity as a tolerant umbrella that could put to an end religious conflict and unite the empire on a common set of values. Unlike most of his predecessors who constantly worked with certain populations such as the rich and the powerful, Constantine’s approach to leadership was different (Francopan,2018). With the acceptance of Christianity, Constantine had a new constituency, which was represented by bishops, who during such a time were local church pastors. This brought about practical changes in his leadership, such as caring for the disenfranchised and the poor in the community. The majority of church leaders had a genuine concern of winning the souls of their flock as opposed to pursuing selfish gains like power and money (Francopan,2018). The people of Ancient Rome were able to benefit from this kind of leadership, which was concerned about their welfare.

Care for the Powerless

One of the main teachings of Christianity, which had a significant impact on the people of Ancient Rome was showing compassion to other people more so the powerless in the society. Constantine, whose contributions shaped the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire, believed that his time in power would be prosperous if he received favor from God (Francopan, 2018). He further believed that caring for the poor, widows, and orphans was the best way to express gratitude to God who he believed made him successful in his reign. One of the major steps that this leader took was to lavish tax revenues upon the church. A great percentage of the money was earmarked for the support of the poor (Francopan, 2018). This move made a significant impact on improving the people’s livelihoods while narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor in society. During the reign of this leader, he bestowed judicial powers on bishops to equalize the civil justice system, which by then slanted against the economically challenged in the society. This move came in handy to solve the justice-related hurdles that many people had suffered under the previous leadership regimes.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the spread of Christianity in Ancient Rome was marred by much resistance, which saw the persecution and murder of some of those who confessed the faith. The fact that Christianity taught doctrines that were against the ancestral pagan customs, contributed to its opposition. However, with the support of some of the Roman Emperors such as Constantine, Christianity was able to witness growth and extent its influence to many parts of ancient Rome. Some of the positive impacts that it brought were increased freedom of religion, limiting empirical powers, and embracing leadership that is grounded on care for the powerless. This was achieved through the practicing of the Christianity doctrines and values such as love and compassion.

Reference

Francopan, P. (2018). The story of Greece and Rome. Yale University Press.

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