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.