One of the favorite weeks of the year as a teacher was attending the annual youth leadership conference. As a member of the Spiritual Life Committee, serving as chaperone for this event gave me the opportunity to recognize and encourage student leaders to follow God’s calling. These events introduced me to cutting edge curriculum designed by Summit Ministries. During one decade, I was blessed to participate in work shops led by Dr. Jeff Meyers and John Stonestreet. During my final year of attending, I was challenged to stop judging the world by engaging our culture with the living Word of God.
Now while Paul was awaiting them at Athens, his spirit was grieved and roused to anger as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned and argued in the synagogue with the Jews and those who worshiped there, and in the marketplace [where assemblies are held] day after day with any who chanced to be there, Acts 17:16-17.
Stonestreet’s best lesson focused on the apostle’s initial visit to Athens. Despite being discouraged and grieved by a city full of idols, Paul tried to find something positive. Based upon the passage below, Paul identified a point of reference, an altar dedicated to an unknown god. Following a similar method of apologetics used by C.S. Lewis in the second portion of Mere Christianity, Paul establishes a common ground. Instead of preaching a message of condemnation, Paul compliments the citizens of Athens, referring to them as religious. Paul also quotes a poet who refers to being an offspring of God. This is what the world needs to hear.
So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], said: Men of Athens, I perceive in every way [on every hand and with every turn I make] that you are most religious or very reverent to demons. 23 For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you, Acts 17:22-23.
In the aftermath of the George Floyd’s unnecessary death at the hands of a white police officer, buildings, local businesses and vehicles have been set ablaze in Minnesota. As riots continue to spread to other major metropolitan cities, anger over Floyd’s death has fueled this outage. As African Americans, minorities and protesters seek justice for this hate crime, time will tell what the future holds. As for now, cooler heads must prevail. If this country wants to continue it’s reputation as the great American melting pot, we must come together to discover what we have in common. When common beliefs and ideals are embraced, Americans can unite over the freedoms laid out in the Bill of Rights.
by Jay Mankus