Dorcas and Lydia: The Fabric of Love
The best story ever told is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The next best story is a large volume of many chapters that is still being written today. It contains the intricate details of the gospel spreading around the world, the interweaving of God’s providence into a beautiful tapestry of the history of the church.
Dorcas and Lydia each have a chapter in the history of the early church. Dorcas (Tabitha) lived in Joppa. Her life was filled with good works and acts of mercy, but she became sick and died. Her loved ones washed her, laid her in an upstairs room, and sent for Peter twelve miles away. When he arrived, the weeping widows showed him all the garments Dorcas had made for them. He asked them to leave the room, knelt down and prayed, and said, “Tabitha, arise.” Her friends were overjoyed to see her alive! Many heard and believed in the Lord.
Lydia was a business woman in Philippi, Macedonia, who sold expensive purple dye. She worshipped God. Paul answered a call from Macedonia in a vision to “come over and help.” There was no synagogue, so Paul met with the women who prayed by the river side on the Sabbath. As Lydia listened intently, the Lord opened her heart. She and her household were baptized. She urged the men to stay at her house if they judged her to be faithful to the Lord. Later, Paul and Silas stayed there after being released from prison.
There are common threads that run through the lives of Dorcas and Lydia, and there are lessons we can learn from these sisters. Most apparent is that they both worked with fabric, yet their daily work was a means to serve others. There may have been many widows in Joppa as it was a seaside coast and fishing was a dangerous occupation. Dorcas had enough means to have a two-story house, but she was likely not wealthy. With her sewing skills, she crafted garments for many widows. Love was in every stitch; this was apparent from the tears around her deathbed. Lydia probably was wealthy. She used her gift of hospitality to house Paul and the other apostles when they were in Philippi, even though it may have cost her some loss or danger, as Paul was in trouble with the authorities. She had a strong will — she “constrained” them to stay in her home. Do you and I have hearts that deeply desire to serve others? Does our love for God translate into love for our neighbor? Do we use our abilities and resources to help the needy around us? On the Great Day, will the King bring us to His kingdom and say, “I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me. Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:31-46)?
Dorcas and Lydia were steadfast in the circumstances in which God had sovereignly placed them. Dorcas was not seeking fame as she sewed the coats. God honors her as the only female He called a “disciple.” She was simply being faithful in her calling, and God used her faithfulness in a mysterious way. He sent her a sickness, and she died. The love she had shown the widows caused them to urgently call Peter, and God gave Peter the power to raise her from the dead. This miracle was made known throughout Joppa and consequently many believed in the Lord. Lydia was from Asia, but God made her the first convert in Europe. Her house was Paul’s home base as he embarked on his second missionary journey; the church gathered there and grew.
Scripture’s silence seems to indicate that both Dorcas and Lydia were either single or widowed. Life wasn’t easy. Both were strong women with leadership qualities who used their gifts to glorify God. They didn’t step outside God’s decrees or take matters into their own hands; rather, they humbly and prayerfully followed God’s providential dealings, and He used them mightily. Dear sisters, don’t you feel a bond with Dorcas and Lydia? I find them very inspiring. Are we content to work faithfully in our calling, even when it might seem insignificant and mundane? Are we following God in the way that He is leading us, trusting Him though perplexing providences? Are we living close to God and His Word, praying that we would be instrumental in furthering God’s kingdom? Are we faithful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?