SAINT BERNARDINE OF SIENA, PRIEST (OPTIONAL MEMORIAL)
Paul stood up at the Areopagus.
Paul was standing in the center of the civilized world. The Areopagus was a hub of Greek social, cultural, and political life. People teemed in and around the pagan shrines and altars that filled the area. So when the elders invited Paul to defend his preaching there, he gladly took the opportunity. He had the chance to open a path between the gospel and the pagan world. What would he say?
Let’s start by seeing what he doesn’t do. He doesn’t begin by condemning them or focusing on how far they are from God. Instead, he acknowledges the good things he sees. These people are very religious. They are interested in shrines and altars because they are aware of the divine influence in their lives.
Next, he notes they have some uncertainty because they have set up an altar to “an unknown god” (Acts 17:23), and he uses the uncertainty as a lead-in to introduce them to Jesus. Paul tells them that instead of multiple gods, there is only one. He is the Lord of heaven and earth, the maker of all things.
He even quotes their poetry and applies it to God: “In him we live and move and have our being. . . . For we too are his offspring” (Acts 17:28). He shows cultural understanding but puts their endless search for God in the perspective of the Christian faith. In all of this, Paul is able to look beyond their idolatry to see the true desires of their hearts.
Paul’s approach can help you relate to people around you. It can help when you’re watching the news or disheartened by the negativity you see online. Look for what may be going on behind hurting hearts and try to identify the positive in the situation. Take what is familiar to someone and expand upon it. Each person is loved by God, and if they are far from him, he wants nothing more than to draw them back.
Even though God condemns sin, he always wants to save the sinner. This truth motivated Paul’s preaching, and it can help you grow in compassion. It can help you find common ground instead of shutting the door right off the bat. And you never know what God can do with an open door!
“Lord, help me to be like Paul!”
Psalm 148:1-2, 11-14