17:19 And they (the philosophers) took him (Paul) and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.
Paul uses an idol in Athens to share Jesus with Greek philosophers? Is that allowed? Doesn't it break a commandment or at the very least sanction something that is completely wrong? Why did he do it?
A few years ago I was grabbing a quick lunch at a burrito shop when I noticed a young man reading the Bible as he ate his meal. Intrigued I asked if he minded me joining him. The conversation with him was still pretty young when he began telling me he was right and I was wrong. I honestly don't remember what the issue was but I do remember thinking "seriously?!". He was prepared to draw a line in the sand between the two of us over a very minor issue and he didn't even know me.
Paul didn't draw a line even though he could have. Idol worship is a much bigger deal than the one the young man in the burrito shop was worried about. Instead Paul built a bridge. He began in their culture and on their turf and built a bridge back to the One true God. In doing so he didn't call them out or offend them.
The young man in the burrito shop was brazen but ineffective. Paul was brilliant. The young man was concerned about his point of view without even considering mine. Paul began from their point of view and brought them to his.
Perhaps it is time we started thinking of ideas as physical entities. If I want to attach or connect two physical objects I have to be familiar with both and find a point of attachment or create one. A truck has the ability to tow but it needs a hitch to attach a trailer to. A trailer needs a receiver to attach to the hitch.
People have ideas and beliefs and a world view. This we must respect. We may even learn something valuable from them. At the very least we have to consider their ideas if we want them to be able to connect to our ideas. We may even need to build a hitch.
Paul found a hitch, a link, a point of connection when he saw an idol to the unknown God. The idol showed the Greeks had a sense that there was something or Someone greater, Someone beyond their current scope of understanding.
When you try and communicate with others are you selfish? Is it all about you and your ideas? Have you considered theirs? You may think an idea they have is insane but rather than try and prove it is, why not try and understand why they have that idea...
It is heresy to believe in idols but it isn't heresy to respect and seek to understand an idol worshiper. Build bridges, not walls.