Acts 17 – Observing Religion

Read Acts 17

Paul’s travels take him to a number of different places and contexts where he preaches the Gospel.  When he comes to Athens, a place of great idol worship, religious practices, and philosophy, Paul observes elements from this context and speaks to them in a manner that is appropriate to that setting.

This is an important part of preaching the Gospel: knowing the context in which you are speaking.  In today’s cultural context there is far too much mindless talking points that do not take into consideration the people or the stories that are in the background of our lives.  Paul notices a great deal about the lives of the Greeks before ever addressing them.

As he looks around Athens, Paul takes some time to observe and notice things that help him to know the people better.  He sees their “very religious” lifestyle, how they worship, and what impact that has on their lives.  When he addresses them, he takes elements of that culture and “redeems” them as he shares the truth of Jesus Christ.  In doing so, Paul is speaking their language and giving them something to relate to.  Too often Christians share the message of Jesus using “Christian-ese,” lingo that we would use to talk to each other but not necessarily language that the general public would understand.  We can take some pointers from Paul on this.

I wonder, in light of this, what Paul would refer to if he were to come to the United States today.  What about if he were to walk into one of our churches?  Would he observe the body of Christ living out the message of the Gospel, being a light to a dark world?  Or would he say, like he did in Athens, “I can see you are very religious…”?