Day 39: Lydia
Adapted Acts 16.11-15
The Conversion of Lydia
11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. The Lord opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.
This is one of my favorite conversion stories. Willimon stresses that God opened Lydia’s heart—not Paul. She is already both a business woman and a worshipper of God. So while her society might place her lower on the social scale—God is calling her as one of the first disciples. In fact, “[w]omen could be members of this movement without the permission of their husbands, and they may, though Paul advised against it, initiate divorce from a pagan husband (I Cor. 7:13). So initially women could be in leadership positions. However, as the church becomes stronger, it seems that the church will absorb the culture and regress by excluding women. By placing these stories in Acts, it is as if Luke wants to assure us “regarding the status of women, that the leadership of women had apostolic precedent.”
This way of life that Jesus is teaching is breaking some ancient social barriers. This new freedom allows Lydia to invite Paul into her home, and allows Paul to welcome her as a sister in Christ. Reading the Scriptures in a community of faith can help us to see the messages that can go unnoticed. We have much to learn if we dive deeply into the Word. What have you learned so far that challenges old beliefs?
Dear Lord, Lydia was wealthy and hospitable, and she worked as a disciple for you. Help us to understand that disciples do not all look alike, but they do all honor You and Your commandment to worship no idols, and to love each other as You love us. Amen.
 Willimon, William H. (2010-07-15). Acts: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (p. 137). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.