Epistle to Diognetus for an Election Day

It is Mid-Term Election Day in the United States.  Hopefully, we each will have done our best to form our consciences, consider the various issues, and vote in a manner both well-formed and well-informed.   Whatever the results of the day’s polling, some will be pleased and some will be disappointed.  The Epistle to Diognetus, usually dated from the 2nd Century, reminds us that whatever the outcome in each race, as Christians we remain resident aliens of the nations we inhabit in this present age.  Our first allegiance and our true hope are in Christ, not in princes or politicians.  ~ Fr. Joseph Bittle

For Christians are no different from other people in terms of their country, language, or customs. Nowhere do they inhabit cities of their own, use a strange dialect, or live life out of the ordinary. They have not discovered this teaching of theirs through reflection or through the thought of meddlesome people, nor do they set forth any human doctrine, as do some. They inhabit both Greek and barbarian cities, according to the lot assigned to each. And they show forth the character of their own citizenship in a marvelous and admittedly paradoxical way by following local customs in what they wear and what they eat and in the rest of their lives. They live in their respective countries, but only as resident aliens; they participate in all things as citizens, and they endure all things as foreigners. Every foreign territory is a homeland for them, every homeland foreign territory. They marry like everyone else and have children, but they to not expose them once they are born. They share their meals but not their sexual partners. They are found in the flesh but do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth but participate in the life of heaven. They are obedient to the laws that have been made, and by their own lives they supersede the laws. They love everyone and are persecuted by all. They are not understood and they are condemned. They are put to death and made alive. They are impoverished and make many rich. They lack all things and abound in every¬ thing. They are dishonored and they are exalted in their dishonors. They are slandered and they are acquit¬ ted. They are reviled and they bless, mistreated and they bestow honor. They do good and are punished as evil; when they are punished they rejoice as those who have been made alive. They are attacked by Jews as foreigners and persecuted by Greeks. And those who hate them cannot explain the cause of their enmity.

To put the matter simply, what the soul is in the body, this is what Christians are in the world. The soul is spread throughout all the limbs of the body; Christians are spread throughout the cities of the world. The soul lives in the body, but it does not belong to the body; Christians live in the world but do not belong to the world. The soul, which is invisible, is put under guard in the visible body; Christians are known to be in the world, but their worship of God remains invisible. The flesh hates the soul and attacks it, even though it has suffered no harm, because it is hindered from indulging in its pleasures. And the world hates the Christians, even though it has suffered no harm, because they are opposed to its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh that hates it, along with its limbs; Christians love those who hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, but it sustains the body; Christians are detained in the prison of the world, but they sustain the world. The soul, which is immortal, dwells in a mortal tent; Christians temporarily dwell in perishable surroundings but await that which is imperishable in the heavens. The soul grows stronger even when mistreated by what the body eats and drinks; Christians in-crease daily even when punished. God has appointed them to such a position, and it would not be right for them to abandon it.

~ Epistle to Diognetus

Hat Tip: Fr. Aidan Kimel