One of my sabbatical activities is reading. One series I’m excited about diving into is Philip Schaff’s series on the church fathers. My desire to dive into this massive series (almost 50,000 pages total. Kindle tells me it will take me over 1200 hours to finish it!) is based on believing the writings of the earliest Christians can give insight into our faith, stripped of our cultural baggage.
Mathetes is believed to be a disciple of the Apostle Paul, although scholars aren’t really sure. At the time of Mathete’s letter to Diognetus, Christianity is new. Many people during that era didn’t understand what Christianity was or how it differed from paganism or the Jewish faith.
In his letter, Mathetes describes what a Christian is:
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.[ 174 ] They have a common table, but not a common bed.[ 175 ] They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.( Comp. 2 Cor. x. 3 . ) They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.( Comp. Phil. iii. 20 . ) 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.( Comp. 2 Cor. vi. 9 . ) They are poor, yet make many rich;( Comp. 2 Cor. vi. 10 . ) they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless;( Comp. 2 Cor. iv. 12 . ) they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. 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.(Kindle Location 2258)
This is, perhaps, one of the earliest descriptions of how Christians lived. May we seek to glorify God by following Jesus!