A Letter from the Past
We often think that the world and the Church are vastly different from what they were two thousand years ago. And, while things have certainly changed, some things haven’t.
Sometime between 100 and 200 A.D., a letter called the Epistle to Diognetus was written. The writer’s identity appears lost to history, but some traditions hold that either of the two Early Church Fathers, Saint Clement or Saint Justin Martyr, wrote it.
Regardless of who wrote it, the letter gives us insight into what it meant to be a Christian back then, and what it still means for us now.
“Christians live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives.
They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.”
This letter shows us not only what Christians experienced, but also what Christians were and are called to. How we should live and love, embracing lives of virtue, even when the world doesn’t seem to understand.