When we think no one understands

We live in God, we move in God, we exist in God.

“For in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28

I struggled up the worn marble steps of the Acropolis in Athens in searing July heat.

With each step, I reflected on the thousands of feet that had climbed this stairway before me. Not only the hundreds of tourists like myself eager to see the ancient temples at the top, but the thousands of worshippers in the time of the Greek empire. They came to the Parthenon and Erechtheion—the two temples—to give reverence to their god and goddess, Athena and Poseidon.

Propylaea - Monumental gateway on Acropolis

Propylaea – Monumental gateway on Acropolis

Halfway up our group passed through a towering white marble entrance. I felt small. We were mere mortals who entered the gateway to the gods. After all, Athena stood 12 meters tall—a shining statue in ivory and gold—inside the Parthenon.

We stopped, turned around and took in the view across Athens. Our guide pointed out the Areopagus, known as Mars Hill, and famous for where Paul preached his message recorded in Acts 17 to the Greek Stoic and Epicurean philosophers. These were men and women, great thinkers of that time.

I searched the distant hills for the rocky outcrop, only to realize it was right in front of me, not far below where we stood and in the shadow of the great Parthenon.

Mars Hill - outcrop of rock bottom right.

Mars Hill – outcrop of rock bottom right.

By this rock, Paul, invited to talk to the philosophers, articulated an eloquent message about his faith in the resurrected Jesus. To make an alien way of thinking understandable, he talked to them in familiar rhetoric.

I notice that you are very religious in every way…This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about… For in him we live and move and exist. In this last phrase, Paul quotes their very own Greek poet. Yet, he turned these words to be about the living God, not one made of ivory and gold.

How smart, I thought, when I read Paul’s response to the Greek intellectuals. I could never do that, I concluded, I neither have the knowledge or the confidence. I would just stumble over my words.

After all, Paul was well educated not only in the Jewish faith, but also in the beliefs of the Greeks.

He grew up in Tarsus, a city influenced by Stoic philosophy. He studied under the famous rabbi and teacher, Gamaliel I (Acts 22:3), who appreciated Greek culture.[1]

But, before we think Paul spoke with authority, many who heard him didn’t understand him at all. They called him a babbler. He was more than incomprehensible. Babbler was an insulting term for one who picked up ideas from here, there, and everywhere rather than being trained and reasoned in thought like they were.

Now, I feel more comfortable, and you should, too.

I remember the time God told me to share my heart with a friend who asked what was it that helped me through a bad season. I tried to tell her about my faith in terms she’d understand. Then I ran home berating myself for making such a mess of explaining it. Have you ever felt like that?

We should be encouraged though, what seems nonsense to some, makes sense to others.

So, when we are afraid to speak we should instead be bold.

Paul’s message changed the heart of a woman named Damaris. We know nothing else about this woman except, being at Mars Hill, she was likely an intelligent and influential member of the city. Damaris became the first female believer in Athens.

Our message can change hearts, too, when we are bold enough to speak, even if we think no one understands.

READ

Acts 17:16-33

2 Timothy 4:2-3

REFLECT

Consider how your background and experience can be used to talk to others about Christ.

Do you have ready answers when people ask you about your faith?

RESPOND

What stirs you to speak about your faith to those with differing beliefs?

 Can you find some common ground to start the conversation?

[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1622.

Linking up with Suzie Eller at #liveFree, Susan Mead at #DanceWithJesus and Dawn Klinge at #GraceandTruth

Discussion

  1. Rebecca L Jones

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