Good Christian, Good American, Good Citizen...
There is a very interesting piece of history that helps us to realize what a good citizen looks like. This should be applied to our daily reminders of how we interact with people around us and conduct ourselves as believers. This letter was written by a man who refers to himself in the Greek at Mathetes, or disciple. It is not known who Diognetus, the recipient, or the author truly are. But the work is sometimes attributed to Justin Martyr. The original document dates back to 130 AD, but was destroyed in a fire in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War.
So, if you are struggling to understand what how a Christian should conduct their life as a believer in world today, I suggest you read the following:
Chapter 5: Manners of Christians
Now, one thing you need to realize about Christians is that you can’t distinguish them from other people, simply on the basis of country, language, or any specific customs. They don’t live in their own cities, they don’t have their own language, and they don’t lead any unique kind of life. They don’t conduct their lives, though, according to any speculative theory of any man; nor do they claim to be advocating any human doctrine.
In fact, they live in all kinds of cities and towns, be they Greek or Barbarian, and they follow the customs of the people of those cities: they dress like everyone else and they eat the same food as everyone else. Still, they are able to put their wonderfully striking method of life on display for all to see. Yes, they dwell in the countries of their origins, but they consider themselves as sojourners. Yes, they are citizens of their given country, just like everyone else, but they live their lives as if they were foreigners. As strange as it may sound, every foreign land is to them like their native land, and every land of their birth is like a land of strangers.
They marry, just like everyone else; they have children, just like everyone else, but they would never destroy or kill their own children. They share a common table with each other, but they do not share their marriage bed with others. Yes, they live in this present age of the flesh, but they do not live after the dictates of this present age of the flesh. They live out their days here on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the laws of the land, but they live their lives that surpass them.
They love all people around them, and yet still are persecuted by everyone. People don’t know much about them but they condemn them anyway. They are put to death, but are restored to life. They are poor, yet they make others rich. They may be lacking in many things, but in reality, they abound in all things. They are dishonored, but even in that dishonor, they are glorified. People speak evil of them, yet they are seen to be righteous. When they are reviled, they bless in return.
When they are insulted, they repay those insults with honor. They do whatever is good, and yet they are punished as evil-doers. And when they are punished, they actually rejoice that they’re being punished because they view it as getting closer and closer to true life. The Jews attack and berate them as foreigners, and they are persecuted by the Greeks—and yet still, those very people who hate them are not able to actually give any real reason for their hatred toward them.
This concept is what Paul was trying to teach us in places like Ephesians 4:1 and Philippians 1:27. When Paul says to walk or to conduct yourselves, he uses the word politeuomai. It is the word we get “politics” from. But the word really means to be a good citizen. Since we know that we belong to Christ and he is not of this world (John 18:36), we need to conduct ourselves as true followers of Jesus.
As warriors who are believers, we struggle at times with the idea of participating as citizens in the greatest country to ever exist in the history of the world, the United States, and being true to our faith. My prayer for all of us is that we examine the words of the disciple and let them penetrate our daily conduct. That we can love where we live, but know we are not of this world. That we can participate in the culture without being changed. That the world knows we are different because of our conduct and our love for our neighbors.
Stay on the Grind!