While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there.
He also had a debate with some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. When he told them about Jesus and his resurrection, they said, “What’s this babbler trying to say with these strange ideas he’s picked up?” Others said, “He seems to be preaching about some foreign gods.”
Then they took him to the high council of the city. “Come and tell us about this new teaching,” they said. “You are saying some rather strange things, and we want to know what it’s all about.” (It should be explained that all the Athenians as well as the foreigners in Athens seemed to spend all their time discussing the latest ideas.)
So, Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way,for as I was walking along, I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about
I have always been fascinated with how Paul, the noted follower of Jesus and advocate for the Good News was able to engage people in order to talk with them about Jesus. The best example for me was when he went to Athens, the seat of various philosophies of the world. Paul did not simply go to the marketplace and tell people that they were heading in the wrong direction. He went to engage the Epicureans and Stoics who were the leading philosophical minds of the time. They had built numerous idols, not wishing to upset any of the possible gods they worshiped, and they even set up an idol to the “Unknown God”, just to be sure to cover their bases.
Paul listened respectfully to these philosophers, and then noted the idol to the “Unknown God”. He took this opportunity to explain that this unknown god was the God he worshiped. The one unknown to them, he would make known.
I think Paul was brilliant in how he engaged people. He did not talk down to them. He did not disrespect them. He engaged them to discuss truth. What an example in these days when we have divided into camps of “us and them”. Engaging people is a loving thing to do. Paul knew that all he needed to do was to speak the truth in love. The Holy Spirit of God does all the rest.
Prayer: Lord, give us the patience and wisdom to simply speak the truth in love, and let you do the rest, Amen.