Citizens as Foreigners…

July 23, 2012 — Leave a comment

Let’s start this post with a long quote from A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass:

The early Christian text (from the second or third century) known as the Epistle to Diognetus explains that Christianity is neither an ethnicity nor earthly citizenship but a way of life that is somehow at odds with the societies in which the faithful reside. Christians may look like everyone else, but their actions—including practices of hospitality, charity, and nonviolence—make them different: For 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 evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life.

The first thing that struck me about this quote is that early Christians deemed their faith as a way of life that is most often at odds with the societies in which they lived. In other words for it they were radicals in their culture. They lived their lives quite differently than those around them.  Can we look at the above quote and say even in the slightest that this is also what current day Christians look like?  I think not! Have we lost the zeal for a true Christian life?  Most statistics today clearly show that today’s Christians have been almost totally blended into the country where they reside. Do we treat our fellow Christians in foreign lands as if there were our brothers? Do we put  our nation’s flag before God? Why is there even any flag showing in our churches? Aren’t we foreigners even in the land of our birth? Sadly we have morphed into something that barely resembles the early members of our religion.

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