Using the World to Win the World

Areopagus from Google Images
Those who are my generation and older were probably taught to stay away from the world and from those of other faith practices. We were to be “separate.” Our understanding of the Biblical concept of separation from the world was flawed.

Paul gives us a prime example of that in Acts 17. The apostle is in Athens. He started out in the synagogue, which was his custom (17:17). The Athenians were idol-worshipers and this was a concern to Paul so he headed to the marketplace to preach (17:18). Then he was taken to the Areopagus (17:19). Traditionally we talk about this place as being a kind of central housing area for all the gods that the Athenians worshiped, but it was also the place where the high court met to judge criminal and civil cases so it could be that there was the possibility that someone wanted to bring Paul up on charges for “advocating foreign gods” (17:18).

In any case, Paul did not resist. It is interesting to note that Paul, usually considered to be pretty brusque, did not attack the Athenians for the gods they worshiped or tell them they were wrong. He simply took note of something that he could “hook” his message to: The presence of an altar to THE UNKNOWN GOD. He complimented them on being religious (17:22). Using that altar and his astute bit of flattery, he introduced Jesus to his audience.

He also quoted one of the better known of the Athenian poets (17:28), no doubt NOT a Christian!

Our separation from the world is a separation from the practices of a pagan world, not a separation from pagans (I’m sure that term is not politically correct!). Paul went into that world with the Gospel and used what he could of that world as a jumping off point to take his audience from what they knew to what he wanted them to know—the Gospel.

We, the church, need to be much more proactive as it relates to our presence in the pagan world. We will not be like that world, but we will interact with that world and use what we can of it to gain a platform for the message of the cross.

This year our young people are building a float that will be part of the Santa Claus Parade. We don’t believe in Santa Claus and the commercialization of Christmas any more than Paul believed in the gods of the Athenians. But we will be present in that pagan setting with an opportunity for people to see and hear the Gospel just as Paul was present to be seen and heard.

Look for ways to take the world and use it to win the world.

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