The Way of Early Christians

The following is an excerpt, chapter 5 of the Letter to Diognetus, a letter written by an unknown Christian apologist in either the second or third centuries.  Having spoken of the stupidity of Greek idolatry, and the superstitions of Judaism (though not affirming such terminology, such clauses must be understood within their historical setting), he turns to the Christian distinctiveness of the time – marvel at the content, a content we would do well to recover contemporarily:

5 For Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. 2They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life. 3This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching, as some people do. 4Yet, although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each man’s lot has been cast, and follow the customs of the country in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time they give proof of the remarkable and admittedly extraordinary constitution of their own commonwealth. 5They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They have a share in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land. 6They marry, like everyone else, and they beget children, but they do not cast out their offspring. 7They share their board with each other, but not their marriage bed. 8It is true that they are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.”6229They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.62310They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require. 11They love all men, and by all men are persecuted. 12They are unknown, and still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life. 13They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance. 14They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and are vindicated. 15They are reviled, and yet they bless; when they are affronted, they still pay due respect. 16When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because they are brought to life. 17They are treated by the Jews as foreigners and enemies, and are hunted down by the Greeks; and all the time those who hate them find it impossible to justify their enmity.

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