Men of Athens…
So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
After having recently stood on Mars Hill and looked over the city of Athens, these words took on new meaning and life. It’s amazing the heart you develop for a people once you meet them, eat with them, live among them. As I stood on the edge of this famous site on which Paul had stood and testified, I recalled what he had said to the Areopagus. I am amazed at his courage and level-headedness in the midst of accusation and conflict. And what a place to bring someone for trial – the top of a rock hill with cliffs on every side! It was interesting too that it sits in the shadow of the Acropolis which houses the Parthenon – the temple to the goddess Athena. So he stood on a hill right next to the temple to Athena, the patron saint of Athens, and called out their idolatry. But, he did it with so much respect and compassion, recognizing the integrity of their hearts and their desire for truth, that it would be somewhat difficult to remain offended. This passage actually contains one of my favorite verses: “In Him we live and move and exist” right after saying that God is the Creator of all and has placed something in all men that causes them to grope for and seek Him. He also promises that He is near to all of us and able to be found when we seek. His heart, and God’s heart, for the people of Athens is unmistakable. It was with that same compassion and love that I looked over the city of Athens and prayed that they would grope for and find Him as He is not far from any of us.