DayBreaks for 11/16/12 – Christian Gamblers
Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. 26 I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. 27 And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. 28 So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. 29 Welcome him with Christian love and with great joy, and give him the honor that people like him deserve. 30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away. – Philippians 2:25-30 (NLT)
I love the way that there are “back stories” behind nearly every passage of Scripture! This seemingly innocuous passage is quickly passed over in a rush to get through one’s daily Bible reading. It doesn’t seem very spiritual, does it? When I was a little kid, the local newspaper from the very tiny little Iowa town that was nearest to our farm would even include news about who got a phone call from someone else! Or, who had out-of-town guests. It may seem strange to people today, but it was a very personal and tight-knit little farming community. So it is with this passage.
Epaphroditus had come to Paul from Philippi. Paul was in Rome, in chains. It was risky for Ephphroditus to come, because if Paul were to be killed for his preaching, Epaphroditus could be killed as a follower or “co-conspirator.” But he came to Paul anyway. While in Rome, he got sick – and nearly died. Fortunately, he recovered and now Paul is eager to send him back to his friends in Philippi so they can rejoice in his recovery.
In verse 30, Paul uses an interesting Greek word to describe how Epaphroditus “risked his life” for Christ’s work. The rather long Greek word was a gambler’s word that described staking everything on a single throw of the dice. That’s how Paul describes what Epaphroditus had done for the sake of Christ. But here’s the “rest of the story”:
In the Early Church there was an association of Christian men and women called the parabolani, the gamblers. They weren’t gambling for money. Rather, their aim was to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. In A.D. 252 plague broke out in the city of Carthage. In their distress and terror, the heathen tossed the bodies of their dead into the streets and fled the city in terror. Cyprian, an elder in the church in Carthage, gathered his congregation together and charged them to gather up the dead bodies, and to also care for those stricken by the plague in the city. By doing so, they saved the city, at the risk of their lives, from destruction and desolation. They were gambling everything on a single throw of the dice – risking their very lives for Christ and the love of their neighbors.
This “gambling” spirit should be in every Christian, an almost reckless courage which makes him ready to gamble with his life to serve Christ and others. How are you doing? What have you risked for Him?
PRAYER: We have become so security conscious that we’ve grown risk-adverse, even when it comes to serving You, Lord. Start today to create a spirit of courage and boldness within us for there is much to be done! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright 2012 by Galen C. Dalrymple.
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