The trip is going by too quickly and we haven’t even really started with the Bible distribution yet! We traveled yesterday to Corinth which is south of Athens, and today we drove north to Nikisiani. The village we are in now is perfectly charming. I feel like I just walked into a storybook setting in the middle of paradise. The people here are so warm and welcoming and the food is of course out of this world. We had dinner in a small local restaurant where the owner also happened to be throwing a birthday party for her 8 year old little girl. We celebrated with them, completed with singing and birthday cake. Yes I could totally live here.
Although most of the day today was spent driving, we were able to get some much needed down time to process what we have seen and learned so far. The country is rich with history and seeing this place has once again brought scripture to life for me. We were in Ancient Corinth yesterday and Corinth left me aching for more.
The Ancient Greeks of Corinth worshipped the goddess Aphrodite by offering sacrifices to her at the temple atop the mount in Corinth. The prostitutes greeted traveling soldiers and merchants by inviting them to the rituals as an offering to their goddess. This was the custom of this era at the time Paul came to teach here. The prostitutes were shamed in their culture, and were known by two characteristics: their heads were shaved and they wore sandals engraved on the soles which left a message in the sand footprints saying “follow me” in Greek. They walked up the hill to the mount where the statue of Aphrodite stood, leaving behind the footprints calling the men behind them to follow. Once a woman’s head was shaved for such service, she would always be known for her occupation, and only the women who had long braids of thick hair held higher places in society.
When Paul taught the people of Corinth of Jesus and brought the good news of the Gospel, he advised them that although they had the right to do anything, “not everything is beneficial.” He taught about sexual immorality and treating the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit and not as a sacrifice to a false god as such is a sin against your own body (1 Corinthians 12-20).
I was captivated to learn the Corinthian culture of women shaving their heads as prostitutes who made offerings in idol worship and the scripture from 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 made much more sense to me:
“Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.”
1 Corinthians 11:2-16 ESV
As Paul taught and as people believed and accepted Jesus, the women who had been identified by their sin were set free in Christ, and with Pauls instruction that all women should cover their heads freed them from the humiliation and separation among the wealthier believers and removed the separation of God’s daughters based on a cultural appearance and past sins.
In other words, when they were saved, they were freed from their past sins and the head covering assured no judgement upon their heads because they had been forgiven.
The impact of this broke my heart as I stood and the base of the very mount that these women walked upon over 2000 years ago. We stood in the town square of Corinth where Paul was brought before the governing counsel to answer to the accusation that he was “persuading people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” (Acts 18:13). We walked on the very streets on which Paul stood and taught in the midst of the Jews and Gentiles who heard the gospel for the first time.
The reality today is that the people standing in those same streets and living in Corinth are apart from Christ, not knowing Him personally and without the Gospel. Less than 1% of the people in this country, including the Ancient land of Corinth, are saved. How can it be that the place of Paul’s teaching — the teaching that has transcended thousands of years and still reaches corners of the earth bringing people of all nations to Christ — can be walking in spiritual darkness? What is the body of Christ to do with this?
My mind is stretched, as is my heart. I cannot wait to walk these ancient streets, giving the word of God to the people here. Pray for them, pray for us. Pray that the Holy Spirit moves us all into relationships with each other. Pray that the church at home will have a thirst to pray, to go, to serve. Our time is short, the task is at hand, and we need not delay any longer. God is opening the doors for this to happen.
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37.