How the Early Church Endured Adversity

There are multiple forces working to suppress and even harass believers who exercise their faith in the public arena. Going forward, we will have to exercise wisdom and discernment in order to interact effectively inside the growing new reality. 

We are not the first generation to experience hostility. How did the early Christians handle adversity? The Letter to Diognetus is dated to ~130 AD. It was written by someone who used the name Mathetes (not a proper name but the Greek word for disciple). Scholars believe it was either a personal letter written to defend the Christian faith or a formal written defense to a judge. Whoever the author was, he identifies himself as a “disciple of the apostles.” In Chapter 5 he describes the behavior of the early Christians living with the unpleasant reality of mistreatment and persecution:

They obey the laws that men make, but their lives are better than the laws. They love all men, but are persecuted by all. They are unknown, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, yet are more alive than ever. They are paupers, but they make many rich. They lack all things, and yet in all things they abound. They are dishonored, yet glory in their dishonor. They are maligned, and yet are vindicated. They are reviled, and yet they bless. They suffer insult, yet they pay respect. They do good, yet are punished with the wicked. When they are punished, they rejoice, as though they were getting more of life. They are attacked by the Jews as Gentiles and are persecuted by the Greeks, yet those who hate them can give no reason for their hatred.

Walsh, Gerald G. “Letter to Diognetus.” The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Francis X. Glimm, Joseph M.-F. Marique, and Gerald G. Walsh. Vol. 1. The Fathers of the Church. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1947.

What a great testimony to the faith and steadfastness of the early church! May we resolve to remain true to God and His word no matter how society’s perceptions and actions regarding Christianity change. Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life, Revelation 2.10.

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