Back in the Spring of 2018, while living abroad in Spain, I had the opportunity to travel to Athens and visit the Areopagus. It was amazing to think about how the Apostle Paul may have also stood on the rock that I was standing on leading to the temple and one couldn’t help but think about what it was that he saw. If you’ve never been to Athens, you may have still heard of the Acropolis, an area of worship that hosts the Parthenon. It’s a place that thousands of people flock to each year, and a stone’s throw from where Paul gave this famous address. Can you imagine the scene? Paul looks around and sees so many people walking up this hill, headed towards the temple to worship. He looks and sees this huge temple and everyone in it that is currently searching, but very lost. He finds people clearly dedicated to seeking and finding or maybe just appeasing something and probably starts asking the question, “What’s going to be the best way to share the good news of Jesus with these people?”
It’s in Athens that Paul begins to observe the people, the culture, the things that they worship and he makes a couple of key observations. One of the most significant is that they have an altar to an “unknown god.” He observes that they are people that are looking for something. You’ll notice something critically important here, that Paul uses the cultural settings, surroundings, pre-existing beliefs even, but the gospel message is unchanged! By paying attention to the culture and creating the bridges towards sharing the gospel, the message didn’t change and it doesn’t change, but by lessening the barriers towards understanding or acceptance, God worked powerfully through Paul’s message. The message doesn’t change, but context and culture has and does.
What’s the challenge to us? To pay attention! Observe. How do we remove barriers towards sharing the good news of Jesus with others? What are the ways God would call us to pay attention to the people and culture around us so that we might speak God’s truth into it? May we consider what God may do in us and through us and the ways that he might have us speak to people where they are at and would God use each of us mightily as we pay attention and share with those around us.