the church in the world

From the second century AD comes a letter that has come to be known as “The Letter to Diognetus.”  It is one of the earliest non-biblical apologetics still preserved today, and the amazing thing is, it may or may not have been written by a Christian.  Some have suggested that it was possibly written by the Johannine Community the Apostle John addresses in his writings.  Others suggest that it was composed by one outside of the church, describing what was being witnessed in the lives of believers.  In either case, what is portrayed is a wonderful simplicity and fidelity of life.

It is comprised under the title: “The Church in the World.”

“Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs.  They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.  This doctrine of theirs has not been discovered by the ingenuity or deep thought of inquisitive men, nor do they put forward a merely human teaching but rather one which is divine.  Although they live in Greek and barbarian cities alike, as each one’s lot has been cast, they follow the customs of the land in clothing and food and other matters of daily living, at the same time, they give proof of a remarkably common and admittedly extraordinary way of life.  They live in their own countries, but only as aliens.  They have a share in everything as citizens, but endure everything as foreigners.  Every foreign land is their fatherland, and yet for them every fatherland is a foreign land.  They marry, like everyone else, and they have children, but they do not cast out their offspring.  They share a common table with others, but never a common bed.  While it is true that they are “in the flesh,” they do not live “according to the flesh.”  They busy themselves on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.  They obey the established laws, but in their own lives they go far beyond what the laws require.  They love all mankind, but by all mankind are persecuted.  They are unknown, and yet still they are condemned; they are put to death, and yet they are brought to life.  They are poor, and yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute, and yet they enjoy complete abundance.  They are dishonored, and in their very dishonor are glorified; they are defamed, and yet are vindicated.  They are reviled, and yet they bless; when they are affronted, they somehow still respond with respect.  When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment, they rejoice because somehow they have been brought to life.  They are treated by the Jews as foreigners and enemies, and are hunted down by the Greeks; all the while those who hate them continue to find it impossible to justify their hatred.”

We are so often so caught up in CNN and Fox News and the latest polls.  We get so caught up in what we’ve got in front of us.  With what worries us or concerns us – we get so caught up our complaints and our gripes and our woes.  We are so caught up so very often in our own small little worlds, that we struggle with seeing the big picture.  And can’t see the forest for the trees.

We talk about church programs – what sort of plans we can make – what sort of strategies we can strategize – what sort of curriculum or ideas or “church-in-a-can” quick fix we can buy or contemplate or implement – when what the world needs to see is Jesus! They need to see the evidence of God’s grace.  And they need to see it in us.

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard lately: “there has never been a time when the world has been so ungodly.”  Good grief, the world has been ungodly since Genesis chapter 3….

The call for the people of God is to live as the people of God.  The call for those who are in Christ is to live as Christ, as His Church, in the world.

Glory to God!

Jason

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