Paul was a good politician. I once thought that calling something in the church “political”, or someone in the faith a “politician” was at best a back-handed compliment. My thinking has changed on that. During my Doctor of Ministry classes, one of our professors reminded us that we are all political creatures, as politics is the study of relationships within a society. And Paul, as an ambassador for Jesus Christ, was a wonderful politician. Case in point, sharing the Good News in Athens:
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and also in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.) So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new.
Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. (Acts 17:16-23)
Paul could have argued with the locals, telling them how his God was so much more impressive than their false gods. But instead, he started connecting with them where they were. “I see that you are religious”, he began. If he wanted to talk faith with these folks, he needed to acknowledge that they too could talk faith. He mentioned that they had already erected a shrine to an unknown god. Then, we gave them the name and selling points of God Almighty.
The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:24-28)
And once Paul found a common ground for a faithful exploration, he introduced them to Jesus.
We could learn a lot from Paul as we are hoping to be ambassadors for God, sharing Christ with those who don’t know him. Maybe we could identify where people are searching for comfort, purpose, meaning and guidance, and then let them know how Jesus has provided that in our lives. We might be able to meet them where they are searching for faith, and then let them walk the path with us.
God, give me the words to speak, and the passion for the life you offer, that allows me to be used as a guide today for someone who is searching for you. Lead me today as I follow my Lord and Savior Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.