Mathetes to Diognetus: An imitator of His kindness

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But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Luke 6:35

“If you also desire [to possess] this faith, you likewise shall receive first of all the knowledge of the Father. For God has loved mankind, on whose account He made the world, to whom He rendered subject all the things that are in it, to whom He gave reason and understanding, to whom alone He imparted the privilege of looking upwards to Himself, whom He formed after His own image, to whom He sent His only-begotten Son, to whom He has promised a kingdom in heaven, and will give it to those who have loved Him. And when you have attained this knowledge, with what joy do you think you will be filled? Or, how will you love Him who has first so loved you? And if you love Him, you will be an imitator of His kindness. And do not wonder that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is not by ruling over his neighbours, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found; nor can any one by these things become an imitator of God. But these things do not at all constitute His majesty.

On the contrary he who takes upon himself the burden of his neighbour; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who, whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to the needy, becomes like a god to those who receive [his benefits]: he is an imitator of God. Then thou shalt see, while still on earth, that God in the heavens rules over [the universe]; then thou shall begin to speak the mysteries of God; then shalt thou both love and admire those that suffer punishment because they will not deny God; then shall thou condemn the deceit and error of the world when thou shall know what it is to live truly in heaven, when thou shalt despise that which is here esteemed to be death, when thou shalt fear what is truly death, which is reserved for those who shall be condemned to the eternal fire, which shall afflict those even to the end that are committed to it. Then shalt thou admire those who for righteousness’ sake endure the fire that is but for a moment, and shalt count them happy when thou shalt know [the nature of] that fire.”

Mathetes (c. 130) “a disciple of the Apostles,” was likely a student of Paul or an associate of one of the Apostles, in The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, 10 (Roberts-Donaldson English Translation).

In his Sermon on the Plain in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus calls His followers to love their enemies, do good to them, and to lend to enemies without expecting to get anything back. That’s radically different from cultural norms.

The instruction makes no sense in earthly terms. But from a kingdom perspective, Jesus promises reward and renown, “you will be children of the Most High,” for imitating His kindness to the undeserving.

Then in today’s post we learn from Mathetes, who learned from one of the Apostles, that when we follow the teachings of Jesus, we become imitators of God. This takes on many forms of generosity.

We don’t do this by being rich. We do it by helping carry the burden of our neighbor, by distributing to the needy, and benefiting the deficient. All this is paradoxical. Only as we live it out, do we start to grasp the mysteries of God.

A closer look reveals that the inspiration for the sacrificial generosity of the first disciples was not guilt or obligation. They simply imitated the kindness of our Lord, and in so doing, discovered abundant life.

It was not only better than anything the world could offer. It was worth dying for. Imagine you are Diognetus…Do you share the passion and resolve if Mathetes? Are you ready to endure fire for a moment?