Summary: How we are supposed to handle authority
How To Start a Biblical American Revolution
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 whereas 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 think the writer is a non-Christian because there is no mention of Jesus Christ in the letter at all, and he consistently refers to Christians as ‘they’, instead of ‘we’.
That’s not the point. What is important is that he is describing an entire counter-culture of people.
It would be interesting, to give to a large group of unbelievers the task of describing us as they see us. I have to say that I don’t think their letters would resemble the one I just read to you at any point.
Now I’m not pronouncing condemnation on Christians of the 21st century. By and large I believe that the people described in this letter to Diognetus are still all over the world today. The difference, I think, is that where in the first and second centuries of the church there was a clear distinction between the church and the world, now, as Paul Harvey once said, ‘the world is getting more churchy and the church is getting more worldly’ and what the world, that is, those of the world generally witness is the worldly church, which has very little to do with true Christianity and real Christians.
The key to these verses is vs. 15. Live your life so that it muzzles people who want to criticize and depreciate Christ and Christianity and the church. Your life can disarm people who want to shoot down your faith.
Someone who comes to mind in our day is Billy Graham. He has been around a long, long time - in the public eye. The press and critics have had every opportunity to find fault in Billy Graham. I haven’t heard Billy Graham criticized - have you? No. People who don’t like a thing about Christianity, people who don’t believe anything that Billy Graham stands for…Admire him. It is pretty hard to think of someone else like that, isn’t it?
If you look at verse 11 of chapter 2 you’ll see him repeat his address to them from the beginning of the letter: “I urge you as aliens and strangers…” You don’t belong to this world, so don’t live as though you do!
You know the old saying, “When in Rome do as the Romans do”? Well that is patently and diametrically opposed to Christian world view! What happens in Vegas, better be something you can bring home with you without shame! Because Peter, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, calls you aliens and strangers here and says, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles”. Then he tells them specific places where their behavior is on public display and they need to be careful how their lives look to the unsaved world.