Have you wondered how Christians in the second century conducted their lifestyle? 

The Epistle to Diognetus is a part of a very early document called the Didache (The Teaching) that was written during the second century of Christianity that revealed how Christians conducted their life during that time.   The author is not known but we understand that the epistle was written as a response to a request for information about the Christian religion and delivered to a pagan of high social or pollical rank.   What is interesting about this epistle is how it gives a factual description of what early Christianity’s sense of identify and purpose was in the first 300 years before Christendom.   Chapters V and VI give a description of the manners in which Christians would conduct themselves as well as how Christians of that time would relate to the world.    

Here are a few excepts from the Epistle of Diognetus, Chapter V and VI, that give us a good idea how Christians acted during those days.  You can read the full manuscript online by click here

  • They find themselves in flesh, but do not live according to the flesh [V, 9]. 
  • They spend their days on earth but hold citizenship in heaven [V, 10].
  • They obey the established laws, but in their private lives they rise above the laws [V, 11].
  • They love all men, but are persecuted by all [V, 12].
  •  They are unknown, yet are condemned; they are put to death, but it is life that they receive [V 13].
  • They are poor, and enrich many; destitute of everything, they abound in everything [V, 14].
  • They are dishonored, and in their dishonor find their glory. They are calumniated, and are vindicated [V, 15].  
  • They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted and render honor [V, 16].
  • Christians dwell in the world, but are not part and parcel of the world [VI, 4].
  • Christians love those who hate them [VI, 7].
  • Christians are shut up in the world as in a prison, yet it is precisely they that hold the world together [VI, 8].
  • Christians, though residing as strangers among corruptible things, look forward to the incorruptibility that awaits them in heaven [VI, 9].

Back in these earlier centuries Christians were persecuted because of the perception that their views were heretical.  Countless Christians, like many of the apostles, were martyred for their beliefs.   Despite the oppression during that time, Christians still “loved all men” [V, 12] and held that their “citizenship was in heaven instead of earth” [V, 10].   The Christians understood that they were part of the world, but did not belong to the world [VI, 4] and had humbled themselves to live what God has given them [V, 14]. 

A picture of Christianity such as written in chapters V and VI of the Epistle to Diognetus resembles what Jesus taught.  Jesus had also been put to death by his oppressors, but despite the persecution still teaches to “love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44).  Jesus also declares that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) and Paul writes to the Philippians that their “citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20).   Jesus became a humble servant to all, and his followers learned to live accordingly to what was given to them (Philippians 2:5-11). 

We are also called to conduct our life as Jesus teaches and is demonstrated as far back to the first to second century. What do you think about the lifestyle of the early Christian community and how does it compare to your contemporary Christian life style? 

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