Summary: Sermon 8 in a study in 1 & 2 Peter
“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”
GODLY BEHAVIOR BEFORE THE UNGODLY (vs 11-12)
There is a letter written anonymously to a man named Diognetus somewhere between A.D. 130 and 200. Diognetus was a tutor of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, but there is really not much more known about him or why he received this letter.
I want to read just a portion of it to you; if you want to see more of it you can ‘Google’ the name, Diognetus, and you will be given a choice of several websites you can go to that have this letter and the sketchy information about Diognetus himself.
Here is a portion of what he wrote:
“Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language, or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect…They live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them. They follow local customs in clothing, food, and other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the unusual form of their own citizenship.
They live in their own native lands, but as aliens… Every foreign country is to them as their native country, and every native land as a foreign country. They marry and have children just like everyone else, but they do not kill unwanted babies. They offer a shared table, but not a shared bed. They are passing their days on earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the appointed laws and go beyond the laws in their own lives.
They love everyone, but are persecuted by all. They are put to death and gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich. They are dishonored and yet gain glory through dishonor. Their names are blackened and yet they are cleared. They are mocked and bless in return. They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others.
When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given new life. They are attacked by Jews as aliens and are persecuted by Greeks; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility.”
What struck me as I read over these words of this anonymous writer of long ago was that where the writers of the New Testament tell us how we should live and behave as believers, this writer was describing what he or she apparently witnessed.
Now since the letter is anonymous we cannot know whether this person was a Christian or not. I would lean toward the negative for just a couple of reasons. He says that Christians live wherever chance has placed them. I would think that most Christians would say ‘wherever God has placed them’.
The other side of that argument is that since he was writing to a Greek in the house of the Emperor perhaps he didn’t want to cause any confusion by talking of God to a pagan with many gods.
On the other hand, and this is my second reason for thinking this was perhaps not a believer, there is no mention of Jesus Christ in the letter at all, and he consistently refers to Christians as ‘they’, instead of ‘we’.
This is not a major issue, whether the person was a Christian or not. I only bring it up because what is important is that he is describing an entire counter-culture of people and he is attributing to them all these qualities and these distinctives as though he has not personally witnessed one case of contradiction among those he is describing.