In the Halsted house, we like to read. A lot. We especially value reading out loud to our kids. Whether it’s the Bible or Lewis or whatever, there’s something about hearing the spoken word that is so captivating—and relaxing, especially at the end of the day (the Bible is the best book to read out loud, by the way; I highly recommend it).
Recently, I read to my kids the Epistle to Diognetus, which was a letter written sometime in the second-century. We don’t know who the author was, and as far as I can tell, scholars have not reached a consensus about the specifics of its recipient either. But the letter is often classified as an early Christian “apology”—a type of letter that sought to defend the validity of Christian faith and practice.
There’s one particular part of the the letter that is definitely worth sharing and considering. While this passage offers us a glimpse into early Christianity, it also does more. Perhaps, if we have ears to hear, it will also beckon us to commit ourselves to the Jesus Way. Our Christian forbearers have already carved out that path for us so many years ago. The only question is: Will we be faithful to travel it, too?
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.” (Ep. Diog. 5.)*HT: Matthew Thomas, who quoted this section in my interview with him when I asked the following question: “What does it mean to follow Jesus?” (His full answer can be found here: here. It’s a short clip, and it’s definitely worth your time.)