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From the First Christians
I want to share with you an extract from the Epistle of Diognetus, which some experts say was written about 124 A.D. With great simplicity and detail it describes how the first Christian communities lived and felt and what really differentiated them from the non-Christians. It was written by the bishop of Athens to an important man in that city. It can be a source of inspiration for a Christian association, parish, religious community or whatever Christian group. Enjoy it!
“The difference between Christians and the rest of mankind is not a matter of nationality, or language, or customs. Christians do not live apart in separated cities of their own, speak any special dialect, nor practise any eccentric way of life. The doctrine they profess is not invention of busy human minds and brains, nor are they adherents of this or that school of human thought. They pass their lives in whatever township – Greek or foreign – each man’s lot has determined; and conform to ordinary local usage in their clothing, diet, and other habits. Nevertheless, the organization of their community does exhibit some features that are remarkable and even surprising. For instance, though they are residents at home in their own countries, their behaviour there is more like that of pilgrims; they take their full part as citizens, but they also submit to anything and everything as if they were foreigners*. For them, any foreign country is a motherland, and any motherland is a foreign country. Any Christian is free to share his neighbour’s table, but never his marriage-bed. Though destiny has placed them here in the flesh, they do not live after the flesh; their days are passed on the earth, but their citizenship is above in the heavens. They obey the prescribed laws, but in their own private lives they transcend the laws. They show love to all people and all people persecute them. They are misunderstood and condemned; yet by suffering death they are quickened into life. They are poor, yet making many rich; lacking all things, yet having all things in abundance. They are dishonoured, yet made glorious in their dishonour. They repaid calumny with blessings, and abuse with courtesy. Jews assail them as heretics and Greeks harass them with persecutions; and yet of all their ill-wishers there is not one who can produce good grounds for his hostility.”
* Remember that in the Roman imperial the foreigners put up with all kinds of restrictions and impositions, so the Christian inhabitants accept the insults and indignities to which their religion exposes them.