Lydia might be the first person in Europe to convert to Christianity. Her story is told in the New Testament book of Acts, chapter 16. She meets Paul, the evangelist, who is traveling with Silas, during what is referred to as Paul's second mission journey. This journey covered roughly 2,000 miles throughout western Asia and southern Europe.
Paul and Silas travel to Philippi in Macedonia and meet Lydia. They evangelize to her, talking about Jesus Christ. She accepts Jesus Christ as her savior:
Lydia was from the city of Thyatira and lived in the town of Philippi, a Roman colony that had been founded about four centuries earlier by Philip II, who was the father of Alexander the Great.
Paul met Lydia near a riverbank, where the town's Jewish community gathered to worship on Saturdays. Some Bible scholars speculate that Lydia was Jewish and that the town of Philippi did not have enough Jewish residents to have a synagogue and so the Jewish people met near a riverbank to hold their worship services.
In Acts 16:14, we learn that while Paul was evangelizing to the women gathered at the riverbank and: One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. - Acts 16:14.
Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman who dealt in purple cloth. She showed hospitality to Paul, inviting him into her home for a meal. (Acts 16:11-15).
Paul and Silas visit Lydia again in Acts 16:40, before leaving Philippi. This is after Paul and Silas had been beaten, flogged, imrpisoned and ultimately released.
The conversion of Lydia reminds us of a unique challenge of Christian evangelism during its earliest days: Christianity was so new that it often meant that converts would be breaking away from the beliefs of their parents, their siblings, their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers and their employers. Even so, Christianity was able to spread throughout the Roman world.
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