The Roman Empire was the pinnacle of political and cultural unity in ancient times. The size of the kingdom was phenomenal, reaching from Scotland in the north to Zanzibar in the south; and from Indonesia in the east to the Canary Islands in the west. Not only was this time period the golden age of art and literature, it was the golden age of travel as well. Koine (Coin-nay) Greek unified communication across the empire (as English does today) and the Pax Romana (Peace of Rome) made travel safe, affordable and appealing. Roman society was constantly on the move, much like the culture of our day, for a number of reasons: business, visits to healing shrines, migrations, urbanization and vacations. The Romans built an extensive system of roadways (which the Via Egnatia played a major part) making access between cities available at all times and in all seasons. People traveled to visit friends and relatives and they did it often. When they couldn’t travel they kept in touch through letters, relying on friends and family who were traveling to deliver the letter to the intended recipient.
The Via Egnatia saw its share of letter carriers and travelers. But it also played an important part in the spreading of the Gospel. Stretching from one end of the empire to the other, it is certain that Paul, as well as the other apostles and countless unknown Christians, traveled on its large stones bringing the Good News to cities and villages spread out along the way. From these points the Gospel was carried further by other believers who couldn’t wait to share the new faith they had discovered with their families, friends, and anyone else who would listen. As I touched those ancient stones and walked along them for a moment, I thought, “This is where Paul walked! (Acts 16:11-12)". A host of other names came to mind as well- Lydia, Epaphroditus, Silas, Luke and all the people Paul greeted in his closing remarks at the end of his letters. They all walked on this very road where I now stood. It was a small but significant connection to my Christian forefathers. I often long for their boldness, their exuberance in the sharing of my faith. The exciting and challenging opportunities that Paul experienced in Philippi and other places along this road did not seem to be a part of my cloistered world. “Lord, if You present those opportunities to speak, You know I am willing,” I prayed.
I was unaware of how deeply that connection and prayer would tie me to that great man of faith, but I would soon find out. A few days later, a friend and I stood at the base of Mars Hill where Paul spoke to the council of Athens (Acts 17:16-34) talking about “the fullness of time” in Galatians 4:4-5 and how Paul and other Christians traveled along the Via Egnatia spreading the Good News. “That’s very interesting,” a young woman said joining us, “Could you repeat it?” Who would have thought that my simple prayer would be answered so quickly (and with a complete stranger no less)! It was at that point that I truly followed in the footsteps of Paul, for as I spoke to her about Paul the messenger and his methods, I included The Message as well (John 3:16-17).
Today there are many roads that can be used to spread the Gospel far and wide. Thanks to the world wide web the ability to share the Good News in even some of the most remote places has expanded far beyond what missionaries like Hudson Taylor, William Carey, and David Livingstone ever would have imagined. Churches which initially were forced to close their doors when governments mandated everything be “locked down” at the onset of the Covid 19 virus found they could open the door to cyber-world and still obey Jesus’ command to “go into the world and preach the Gospel” (Mt. 28:16-20) via Zoom, Facebook and other forms of social media. But whether through the initiative of a church or by an individual a road must be taken in order for it to be useful and there is the challenge- are you walking on that road? Whether it’s across the street to chat with a neighbor, picking up your phone and giving someone a call or tweeting the way the Lord has impacted your day, Jesus commands that you “Go.” So get out on your own Via Egnatia and do it.
Ann LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre