A Sign of Contradiction

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The following was a college essay written by Katherine Stoeckl. It has been edited and approved by Mary Boneno. If you have a Theology essay that you would like published that received a grade of an A- or higher, please be sure to contact us.

By Katherine Stoeckl, Texas A&M

According to the Letter to Diognetus, Christians are to the world as the soul is to the body. As the soul is in every part of the body, animating it, so too are Christians spread to all parts of the world bringing the words of eternal life. Another analogy from Jesus Himself is that Christians are to be the salt of the earth or a city on a hill that cannot be hidden or a light not to be put under a bushel basket.[1] All of these analogies disclose the responsibility of Christians to do good works in the world that others may see their good works and give glory to God.

The author contrasts the pagans and Christians by their respective hatred of the pagan’s idols. He says that pagans despise their idols even more than the Christians do because the pagans lock them up overnight with a guard after imploring their favor because by doing this, the pagans attest to the insensibility of their idols since no human would endure such treatment. The God of these Christians is not like the pagan idols to which sacrifices and burnt offerings are given because He will not accept such gifts devoid of sincerity of heart. With natural eyes, the broken heart of a Christian will not be seen.[2] Neither can the soul be seen, yet it is guarded by the visible body which hates the pleasures of the soul as the world hates Christians. Despite the hatred, the soul loves the body and will not depart from it prematurely—so to Christians. They are, however, a sign of the end—a sign of His coming again in glory.

In contrast with the external fastidiousness of the Jews, the author positions Christians as ones who accept the goodness of all of God’s creation, trusting that all was made without superfluity. So too, the law was given not to remain unattainable, but rather so that grace might fulfill it. While the Jews meticulously strove to follow the law and understand the divine instructions given their fathers, the Christians do the same albeit with the knowledge that they cannot succeed on their own. They themselves and even their worship remain mysteries until they make a total gift of themselves in faith at the hour of death. Until then, because they have encountered the mercy of God, they live differently, not as children of the world but as children of the light who are as cunning as serpents and innocent as doves.[3] The Lord commends the dishonest steward for his spirit of problem-solving and so Christians, faced with the problem of being strangers in a strange land, strive for perfect effort rather than perfection.

In all, Christians are a sign of contradiction. They are becoming like little Christs in that opposites are united: human and divine, body and soul. Whereas the pagans focused on the body and the Jews on the soul at the expense of the body, Christians are called to be “signs of His coming”[4] when the body is resurrected and the soul purified and all is restored in Christ.[5]

[1] Mt. 5:13-16.

[2] Ps. 51:15-16.

[3] Lk. 16:8, Mt. 10:16.

[4] “From a letter to Diognetus,” trans. Francis Glimm (New York: Christian Heritage, Inc, 1947), 361.

[5] Eph. 1:10.

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