Text Size: Zoom In

Mathetes to Diognetus

I just remembered a quote from a second century letter that might be a good way to wrap up our series of posts on our “dual citizenship.” This ancient document shows that from very early in the church’s history, followers of Jesus saw their distinct roles as citizens of both heaven and earth.

This ancient Christian document called “The Epistle Of Mathetes To Diognetus” makes a case for followers of Christ by saying,

“The Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. . . .

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 dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified.

They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evildoers. 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.

To sum up all in one word-what the soul is in the body, [so] are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.”

We have included this quote in a Discovery Series booklet on “Church and State” that addresses at more length the history and present challenge of the Church and Politics.

Before we move on to other subjects, I’d like to know whether you find anything insightful in “The Epistle Of Mathetes To Diognetus”?

Vote on whether you think this post is something you'll be thinking about:
Vote This Post DownVote This Post Up (+1 rating, 1 votes)

4 Responses to “Mathetes to Diognetus”

  1. dep7547 says:

    This is a great topic! It is one aspect of our daily walk with the lord that is too often overlooked. I especially like the contrast of the soul’s relation to the body to expound on the ideal that “we are in the world but not of it.” There are so many times in my life that I feel as though I am meant to merely observe what is going on in the world; however, I have difficulty in aligning this philosophy with the idea that “faith without works is dead.”

    For instance, the one and only time that I exercised my right to vote was for Bush Sr. when he lost to Bill Clinton. At the time, I felt that Bush and the country were making progress on the abortion issue and when Clinton won, I watched in horror as the tide of public opinion ran the other way. In fact, by the end of Clinton’s second term, this issue was deemed as political suicide for any candidate to announce! I anguished over the idea that perhaps I was not rightly serving the same God who once chastised his people about aligning themselves with nations who “sacrificed their children to Molech.”

    As it turned out, I was enabled to attend college during this time and began to witness a remarkable change in human rights–at least as far as an availability of good jobs, an increase in minimum wage and a major push in healthcare benefits for children. In fact, for the most part, I feel like more good things had been accomplished during his administration than any other in recent history. However, another change was brewing then and is in full force now–the education system that this country so proudly founded is actively engaged in a process of “weeding out” its weakest members.

    Given the more frequent speeches on economic stimulus and having everything explained through the media through economic terms, it should be painfully obvious that as a “Christian” nation, our leaders are attempting to “serve both God and mammon.” Even as they try to push Christ aside: however, I cling to my hope in him because he still stands against hypocrisy! Even if the world’s educators,religious collaborators, scientists and historians etc… could firmly prove that he was no more than a man, his love of children and families, his hatred(if he could be considered to carry this emotion) of hypocrisy and poverty and his compassionate tolerance of everything between provide every reason for me to continue believing in him and the paradise he spoke of!

  2. Mart De Haan says:

    Thanks for telling some of your story and struggle. I remain so convinced that real influence can occur from the ground up as followers of Christ show by example and reason that we have been given the miraculous gift of life for high purposes.

  3. eltonteng says:


    I agree that real influence occurs on an interpersonal level. However, I don’t believe we’ve considered in this thread that a potential calling for part of the body of Christ may yet be public service, or one that may influence the election process, and leading to political influence and change.

    There are a lot of Christians among our population. Some can take part in more prophetic calls to change, and others may be called to partake in political change, and yet others may be called to create change on a more interpersonal level as you speak of. I don’t believe we can discount the life paths God may have laid in place for each one of us. The notion that Christian participation in the process of public office ownership may potentially take away from ministry opportunities would not be as much of an issue if we do not limit opportunities based on our own understanding.

    In fact, if I had an atheist agenda, I would want all Christians to stay out of the political process to minimize their influence.

    This thread reminds me of a belief in some circles that full time Christian ministry work is the highest calling a Christian may received from God. Is it really? Is it biblical? On what basis is this claim? We all are small parts of the body of Christ and we fulfill different but likely to be equally important duties.

  4. Mart De Haan says:

    I’m glad you made the point. I agree. Followers of Christ can have, and are having, an important role in public life and in most of the professions and occupations of the world. Worst case is for us to see “ministry” or even “full time Christian service” as being only a church or religious non-profit thing. We are salt and light not so much in church as when we are being examples of the ideas, attitudes, and values of Christ in our world. My concern in this series is merely to sound a warning on the other side when we lose our sense of individual calling (which can reflect real grace and the leading of God in our lives) and instead try to seize control of public policy in a way that can only result in eventual backlash and cries of hypocrisy from those who believe we are misunderstanding the distinct roles of church and state. I’m sure most of us could agree that although, as individuals, we may be directed by God into public service, our corporate calling is not about power and control as much as by being examples and influence through the difference Christ has made in our lives.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.