Peter calls Christians sojourners and exiles (1 Peter 1:1, 1:17, 2:11). The words convey the idea of someone who lives in a place that is not his or her home. This person is a temporary resident. Peter wants us to view life that way. Our home is heaven. We reside here temporarily, but we are always to live true to the ways of heaven.
That means in many ways we will be like our neighbors. We are not to be odd just for the sake of being odd. But it also means that in many ways we will be different.
The Epistle to Diognetus grasps this same but different aspect of Christian living. It was written between A.D. 150 to 225 – a time in which Christians were defending their faith in the circumstances of persecution. The author is unknown. Yet it contains a very thought provoking description of what it means for Christians to be temporary residents.
For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. For nowhere do they live in cities of their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect, nor do they practice an eccentric life-style. This teaching of theirs has not been discovered by the thought and reflection of ingenious men, nor do they promote any human doctrine, as some do. But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time they demonstrate the remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food but not their wives. They are “in the flesh,” but they do not live “according to the flesh.” They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws; indeed in their private lives they transcend the laws. They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted.
*The Epistle of Diognetus 5:1-11 in M.W. Holmes, translator, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, p. 541.