Sometimes Christians are so passionate about their God they unknowingly alienate potential believers. How do they unknowingly do this? When sharing the Gospel with people, who believe in some other religious system like Buddhism or Islam, Christians often speak down to these people as if they are lesser than, just because their current view doesn’t align with theirs. When this happens, non-Christians, are turned off and close down to the Gospel. In other words, they feel attacked and put up walls so thick nothing can penetrate. At this point you may be asking: “How do I share the Gospel with non-Christians in a way that attracts instead of repels?” The Apostle Paul shows us how to do this as he addresses the “Men of Athens” on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-34). Paul starts his address with, “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.”
As Paul addresses this group of people, a very devout idolatry laden group, he offers respect, instead of condemnation toward their views and beliefs. How does he show respect:
- He gives credit to their spirituality. Paul says, “I observe you are very religious.”
- He makes an attempt to understand their culture. Paul says, “I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship.” He took the time to understand the person’s view.
- He offers to identify their “Unknown God.” The Greeks were very inquisitive people, they enjoyed philosophical debate. Paul opened their ears to the truth when he offered to educate them. In other words, he knew his audience before he began to speak.
Respect, understanding, and the promise of knowledge opened the ears of the Greeks to hear what Paul had to say. A person’s ears are a gateway to the mind, and the mind is a window to the heart. Paul continued and finished his sermon on Mars Hill with the truth and nothing but the truth. Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill is actually the fullness of the Gospel of Christ in a nutshell. Here is what that small nugget of truth did:
Acts 17:32-34 says, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you [x]again concerning this.” So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.”
It was true then and true now; some sneered, some asked to hear more about the “unknown God,” and some joined and believed. Remember, the goal of an evangelist is not to prosecute the beliefs of another, it is only to share the Gospel Truth! Paul planted a seed, the Holy Spirit watered, and God grew the desire to believe. Can you see the simplicity in this?