29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
When they didn’t take Paul seriously, some of it was because they thought he was a “babbler” and was just picking up all kinds of ideas to mash them together and spread them around. (v.18). The word is more offensive than babbler though. It’s an idiom for a bird that picks up seeds and then — ahem — spreads them out all over the place.
Remember how it said that Paul’s spirit was provoked within him? As he walked around Athens and saw all of the idols, he was upset.
I remember when I went to Myanmar. A highlight of the trip was to go to Shwedagon, a giant Buddhist temple, and see it. It’s amazing and cool and huge and gold and old and I was disgusted. I had spent too many days with little hungry kids to even get out of the van to look at that place. My spirit was provoked.
After a week on the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation in South Dakota, our team took a break and we were heading home. We had spent a week hearing about the atrocities done in the expansion of the west and the mass killing of buffalo to weaken the Native American tribes. The top thing on the menu at the restaurant where we stopped: Buffalo burgers. I couldn’t do it. It was too much.
I had fish.
In South Dakota.
My teammate had the biggest hamburger I had ever seen, buffalo or not (smothered in Béarnaise Sauce nonetheless!).
I couldn’t do it. My spirit was provoked.
What I so admire about Paul is that in his presentation to the religious babblers of Athens (because that is what they really were) was that he was truthful and kind.
He was upset about idolatry and he knew the only way for them to find what they were looking for! But he presented that truth in such a way that people could hear it and not reject him because he was a jerk. He was kind, wise, thoughtful, and provoking in his presentation.
We walk among idolaters every day. They are worshipping the creations of their hands and we can easily fall into the same sins or be provoked to rudeness against them.
Follow Paul as he follows Christ. Worship in spirit and in truth at the same time. People are longing for truth that isn’t mixed with hatred. When they see the truth in love, they will be ready to listen and respond.
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