A second-century view of Christians as they saw themselves.
This is an eloquently written letter about the first Christians by an unknown second-century Christian writer to Diognetus :
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 on 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 be Greek or foreign.
And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though the are only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labour under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be 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 on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they live on a level that transcends the law.
Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonour, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference is their answer to insult. For the good they do, they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet non one can explain the reason for this hatred.
To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christians is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As a visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen.