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What is a Christian?

From time to time, I get into a conversation, and someone asks me to define what a ‘Christian’ is, what we believe in and if we are different from other people. Now there are a number of ways of answering that but one of the best descriptions of who we are as a faith was also one of the earliest descriptions made of Christians.

In the 13th century, a manuscript was found which was entitled ‘Epistle to Diognetus’, believed to have been written by a Greek writer, but which has been dated as being written around 130AD-so it is regarded as one of the earliest Christian apologetics (arguments in favour of Christianity). We are not sure who the author was or who the ‘Diognetus’ referred to was, but what was written over 1,800 years ago is still as good a definition of what a Christian is or should be as anything else I know:

“ (Christians) dwell in their own countries but simply as sojourners (temporarily). 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 others, they begat 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 are citizens of heaven. They obey prescribed laws and at the same time, surpass the laws in their lives. They love all and are persecuted by all. They are poor, yet they make many rich; they are completely destitute and yet they enjoy complete abundance. They are reviled and yet they bless. When they do good they are punished as evildoers; undergoing punishment they rejoice because they are brought to life.”

Tags: Christian, Diognetus, Epistle