19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.
It is very rare that we’d ever talk to someone that had been in a vacuum. There are people that are out of touch with pop culture, or people that have never seen Star Wars (they exist!) but it’s a safe bet to say everyone we ever talk to has some idea of religion. According to some survey in the last 10 years, 80% of the Tri-State area identifies as Christian. That means the other 20% can’t be stuck in traffic, order a chikin sandwich, or go to work without coming across somebody that at some point has participated in Christianity.
Paul knew that the people he was talking to were religious. They had a reputation! Earlier it said that Paul was ‘provoked’ while walking around and saw all of those idols. Does what he say sound like a person that is provoked? Does he lay into them with his bullhorn and tell them what a bunch of dirtbags they are?
No. The answer to that question is no.
Paul could see where they had some opening. They had some humility in making an altar to something that they didn’t know. There was something else out there that they might not know and just to cover their bases, they built an altar to it.
He didn’t smack them upside the head with his study bible because they were idolaters. Paul built on their misdirection and ignorance.
I don’t think the bullhorn and bible smacking is much of a risk for us today. It seems like a greater risk is to have the make-believe conversation in our heads of how this will go, and then we quit before we even start. I’m glad Paul didn’t do that either.
He started with what they wondered about…what made his religion different…and then just told them about it.
As we look different in the world, people might like us to do the same. Why do our kids act so respectfully? How are we still married after 23 years? How can you sit there when your entire computer network is melting down and not cuss anybody out? The people around you are asking such questions.
“My way of life is a little different. Let me tell you about it…” Is a great starting place.
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