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. 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.” (Acts 17:22-23a)
How far would you go to help a person understand issues of faith? I’ve heard it said by some a reformed background that we should let the Holy Spirit explain God’s truth to peoples’ hearts. And yet, Paul used a culturally relevant symbol to connect people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There’s a debate in the church about how culturally relevant the church should be. Some claim that cultural relevance is of utmost importance, and others claim that it’s unbiblical. Paul, however, appears to have found cultural relevance to be a useful tool in his ministry. The people of Athens were very religious people, and they had statues to many gods. In their efforts to makes sure they didn’t leave any god out, they also created this one to the “unknown god.”
Interestingly enough, Paul leveraged the people’s religiosity to help them understand the God of the Bible – the Creator God who made man in His own image. The argument seems clear for the church today: leverage what’s timely to teach what’s timeless – use the means of the culture to teach Biblical truth that transcends cultures. Anything short of sin is fair game in building a bridge for others to know Christ.
Father, I want to do everything in my means to help people know You. Help me to know how best to leverage the cultural around me to do so, and make up for my inadequacies with the power of the Holy Spirit – that people may learn of the saving grace of Jesus.