Sojourners in the Land

In a second century Christian apologetic writing, the author emphasizes the transitory nature of the Christian life. Christians are sojourners in the land. This writers says, “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.” (Epistle to Diognetus, 5).

The idea of being a foreigner in the land is one that we often neglect. Our status as foreigners means that Christians stand out. We are noticeably different, but not necessarily in appearance. The early Christian apologist continues:

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. (Epistle to Diognetus, ibid.)

While Christians inhabit cities and follow customs of the natives, they display a “wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.” They practice common things such as getting married and starting families, yet do so in a way that honors God. They share what they have, yet do so in a way that honors others and themselves. They abide by the laws of the land, yet demonstrate a higher way of life that laws cannot comprehend. The are mixed in alongside the world, yet do not intermix within the world. The happenings of the world do not change them, yet they seek to change the happenings of the world in which they live. As a final point the apologist states:

To sum up all in one word— what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world….The soul loves the flesh that hates it, and [loves also] the members; Christians likewise love those that hate them. The soul is imprisoned in the body, yet preserves that very body; and Christians are confined in the world as in a prison, and yet they are the preservers of the world. The immortal soul dwells in a mortal tabernacle; and Christians dwell as sojourners in corruptible [bodies], looking for an incorruptible dwelling in the heavens. (Epistle to Diognetus, 6).

The apostle Peter establishes the sojourner-ethos for believers saying,  “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul….For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:11, 15–17 ESV).

Appearances and titles do not distinguish Christians from others–disposition does.


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