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‘Only passing through’

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‘Only passing through’

The fantastic little Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus  is a very early example (some say c.130AD, others c.200AD) of Christian apologetics.

It is written in response to a request from Diognetus, who was  ‘exceedingly desirous to learn the mode of worshipping God prevalent among the Christians’ .  The extract that follows is from chapter 5:

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.


And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

Hopefully, we can all identify to some extent with this description.  We know we are ‘only passing through’ but how easy it is to forget!  We can so easily become entangled in the mess of day-to-day life that we can forget our true identity as children of God and forget our ultimate destination as ‘citizens of heaven’.  The troubles of the present moment engulf us and we try to fight our battles alone.

How, then, do we ensure that we continually measure up to Mathetes’ rather impressive portrait?  It is not enough to kneel before the God who made us on a daily basis, anchoring ourselves in prayer before the work of the day begins: we need to be reminded more often than that.  We need to raise our hearts and minds frequently throughout the day.  Simply taking a moment (frequently!) to remember that we are ‘only passing though’ and asking for Divine Assistance on our journey may be enough to retain that extraordinary’ element in our lives that will enable us – as well as those who meet us – to give praise and glory to God.


  1. Lyndsey says:

    It says such a lot about those early Christians that they were distinguishable in their acts and that they stand out as being different.
    I wonder how many of us modern Christians stand out as they did?

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