Epistle to Diognetus 5-6

The distinction between Christians and the rest of humanity is neither in location, speech, or customs, for they do not inhabit cities of their own, nor do they use some unique dialect or practice an extraordinary kind of life. They do not possess any innovation that the intelligence or study of ingenious men has discovered, nor are they masters of any human doctrine as are other men. However, while they dwell in Greek and barbarian cities, as each has obtained his lot, and follow the local customs with regard to attire and diet and the rest of life, they demonstrate the wonderful and admittedly unexpected constitution of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they share all things as citizens and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.

They marry like all other men and they bear children and yet they do not expose their progeny. They share meals in common and yet not the bed. They exist in the flesh and yet they do not live after the flesh. They pass time upon the earth and yet their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws and yet they surpass the laws in their own lives. They love all men and yet all men perse­cute them. They are unknown and yet they are condemned. They are put to death and yet they gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich. They lack all things and yet have all things in abundance. They are verbally dishonored and yet are glorified in their disgrace. They are denigrated and yet are vindicated. They are reviled and yet they bless. They are insulted and yet show respect.

When they act admirably they are punished as wicked, and when punished they rejoice as if by this means they receive life. The Jews wage war against them as foreigners and the Greeks persecute them, and yet those who hate them cannot state the reason for their hostility.

Revised Text: B. Walters