Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A description of the early Christians from a Letter to Diognetus in 125-200CE

Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of humankind by country, speech or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not speak a special language; they do not follow a peculiar manner of life. … They live in their own countries, but only as guests and aliens.  They take part in everything as citizens and endure everything as aliens.  Every foreign country is their homeland, and every homeland is a foreign country to them.  They marry like everyone else. They beget children, but they do not expose them after they are born. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh.

They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, but through their life they surpass these laws. They love all people and are persecuted by all.  Nobody knows them, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and just through this, they are brought to life. They are poor as beggars, and yet they make many rich. They lack everything, and yet they have everything in abundance. They are dishonored, and yet have their glory in this very dishonor. They are insulted, and just in this they are vindicated. They are abused, and yet they bless. They are assaulted, and yet it is they who show respect. Doing good, they are sentenced like evildoers. When punished with death, they rejoice in the certainty of being awakened to life. …

In a word: what the soul is in the body, the Christians are in the world.

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