Finding Common Ground
22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
- Acts 17:22-23
Paul went from being distressed by all of the idol worship in Athens to seeing that very same idol worship as an on-ramp to a conversation about Jesus. How can we go and do likewise?
First things first: Paul didn’t start here. As we saw yesterday, Paul took days discussing religion and spirituality with the Athenians before we see him in today’s passage. During that time, he moved beyond his distress into a search for common ground.
Paul did this frequently in his ministry. He found points of connection with political leaders and prison guards. He quoted the Jewish scriptures to his Hebrew interlocutors and Epimenides to his Greek friends. He paid attention to the culture around him and looked for connections.
And when he saw a connection, he verbalized it. The “unknown god” in Athens became an onramp to a conversation. The scriptures and the poets gave context to his hearers. Over and over again Paul put himself out on a limb by putting into words the links he saw between his faith and his conversation partners.
Doing this requires courage. We dig deep and excavate the lies that we’ll never find common ground with the worshippers of other gods. We keep our eyes and ears open to words, images, and ideas around us with hopeful expectation that somewhere we’ll find something that will help us connect with someone. And we speak up when we think we see a connection; although we may strike out from time to time.
The real question is: “Do we think it’s worth it?”
It’s easier to stay secure in our compounds. It’s safer to filter out everything that doesn’t originate from our particular place in the Christian subculture. It’s less challenging to be less challenging.
Oh, but it’s so worth it to find common ground, to make a connection, and to speak up. It’s worth it to watch people come alive as they hear the good news about Jesus and believe. It’s worth it to see lives change and families change and neighborhoods experience blessing on top of blessing.
Will you do it today? Will you set your expectations so that you’ll find common ground? Will you fish until you make a meaningful connection? Will you show courageous love by taking that tentative step of speaking up? What will you do today?