Ancient Advice for Modern Times: How True Christians Relate to the World

From the Letter to Diognetus, Mid-2nd Century, by St. Justin, Martyr.

Christians do not differ from other men as to habitat, language or custom.  They live among Greeks and barbarians, wherever destiny has put them.  They follow local custom in garb and diet and other matters.  But their way of life is nonetheless strange and unbelievable to many.  They live in their native land, but as sojourners; as citizens they share everything with their fellowmen, yet they are treated as alien; any alien country is homeland to them, and every homeland an alien country.  They marry as men do and beget children, but they do not practice abortion.  They share tables but not beds.

They live in the flesh but not according to the flesh.  They dwell on earth but regard heaven as their city.  They follow established law but in their way of life, go beyond what the law requires.  They love all and everybody persecutes them.  No one knows them, while all condemn them; they are put to death and still are very much alive.

To put it all briefly:  What the soul is to the body, Christians are to the world.  The soul is present in all the body’s members; so are Christians in the world’s cities.  The soul dwells in the body but does not originate from it; Christians live in the world but do  not have their origin there.  The invisible soul abides in the visible body; Christians are seen as living in the world, but their piety is invisible.  On the other hand, the body, though it suffers nothing from the soul, hates it and makes war upon it because it cannot enjoy its pleasures in peace; the world suffers nothing from Christians but hates them because they reject its pleasures.

The soul loves the flesh and members which hate it; so do Christians love those who hate them.  The soul is enclosed in the body but it contains the body; Christians must remain in the world as in a prison, but they contain the world.  The immortal soul dwells in a mortal home; Christians are pilgrims in a corruptible world while they look forward to heavenly immortality.  God has set them in the world as His sentinels and they may not leave their posts.

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  1. “God has set them in the world as His sentinels and they may not leave their posts.”

    Thank you for the reminder…

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