Paul’s trip to Athens Greece (highlighted in our reading from Acts: 17: 16-25) takes place on his second missionary journey which was from 50-52CE. Paul made three missionary journeys in his lifetime, walking into all sorts of situations. In our reading from Acts his first dialog is with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. The Epicurean’s believed in gravitating to things that were pleasurable and avoiding pain. They were interested in the finer things in life and God for them was just some being out there not very interested in the world. The Stoics believed that virtue was the highest calling and that one should use logical reasoning to control their emotion. Hearing about Jesus, discipleship, and taking up the cross not to mention having faith didn’t appear to play well with either group. Despite this Paul continued on and learned from the experience.
Paul would have walked past the Acropolis, and the towering buildings of the Parthenon and Erechtheion. Even at Paul’s time these buildings would have been built 450 years before his arrival there. He also would have walked past many pagan temples and one even dedicated to the “unknown God” (talk about keeping your bases covered). For Paul Christianity was not narrow, he met these people where they were. He recognizes that the Athenians are a religious people he does not ridicule their Gods, he was able to use the “unknown God” to tell them about our God and about Jesus. He tells them that how our God is present in the world and cares for his people. Paul shows us that we need to meet people where they are, if we hope to have dialog with them, about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the peace that surpasses all understanding.