“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” – Acts 17:22-23 (NIV)
As Paul walked into the city of Athens, the Bible says he was greatly distressed to see that the city was so full of idols and false gods. It really, really bothered him that people were dedicating their lives and serving statues that were really not gods at all. Paul knew the truth that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ was real, powerful and mighty to save.
It is important to notice how Paul dealt with those around him who believed in what he knew to be false. He did not let his emotions control him in a way that belittled or put these people down. He did not tell them what idiots they were and he did not run away from being with them. Paul knew their only hope was if they saw that he respected them as human souls, and so he interacted with them and earned the right to speak the truth to them. Today’s passage is the opening line of the address he made to them, and in it you see he affirmed them as people, and found a way to tell them about Jesus.
Christians will never earn the right to share Christ by hating on or putting down those who believe in false religions or those who choose to believe that there is no God at all. Anger and put downs will only solidify the resolve they already have for whatever they are believing now. Loving words, loving actions and loving concern are tools that the Holy Spirit will use to give you a platform to speak to folks about Jesus.
Are there people you have trained yourself to hate or run from who need to hear the message of Christ? Ask Christ to give you His heart for people so that you will have the opportunity to speak the truth in love.