Reading: Acts 17:22-31
Verses 22-23: “I see that in every way you are very religious… I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god.”
Our focus this week is on being prepared to offer our witness to our faith. As we spend today and tomorrow in Acts 17, we will gain some insight from Paul’s example. While there is not any one right way to share our faith with others, some general do’s and do not’s are helpful.
As Paul prepares to minister in Athens he first spends some time in observation. He gets to know his audience. This provides Paul a place to engage them, to meet them where they are at. When we are nearing an opportunity to share our faith, these are steps we take naturally if the person is someone we know personally. If not, these are wise steps to take. Paul begins the conversation with this acknowledgement: “I see that in every way you are very religious.” He commends them for being spiritual. Continuing, he shares this observation: “I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god.” This is the place from which he can engage in a conversation. Paul will connect their unknown god to the God that he knows. More on that tomorrow!
But for today, let’s consider what Paul does not do at this point. He did not say ‘You think you are religious’ and then launch into belittling or ridiculing or tearing apart their religion because they worship a god they don’t know and can’t even name. He does not comment on how they worship a plethora of gods, as if the breadth might cover all their bases. And he does not tell them how wrong they are as a means to provide space to prove how right he is or to share just how much he knows. There is nothing negative or insulting or confrontational about Paul’s witness to his one true God.
As we consider our natural approach to sharing our faith, ponder which of these do not’s might be your tendency.
Prayer: Lord God, part of the power of our faith comes from really believing what we believe. That’s great, right God? And yet… God, please guard my heart and mind against using my belief as a battering ram or as a stick to pound on another. Instead, Lord, use my faith as a loving and gentle tool to share you with others. Amen.