What Paul Said
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Acts 9:19-24
Paul used the principle that many a marketing motivator has coined as his own: You have to know and relate to your audience if you want to reach them. You have to know what your audience looks like, how they think, see, hear, desire, function. Not sinning alongside them or joining their pagan practices, but by understanding them….sitting criss cross applesauce on the floor, eyeball to eyeball with them until you know who they are and they believe you really know who they are. And that you love them. Just as they are; just as Christ loved us right where we were when He found us.
What Paul Did
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an alter 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
After walking around amidst these dead, detestable idols, studying them, praying thoughtfully, unceasingly, pursuing common ground, he sought the impossible, the small space where two totally different circles intersect…that barely perceivable place where two minds meet and therefore relate…that point at which he could plant himself in their midst and be heard. Not the point of vulnerability in their armor where he could attack or argue his case. The place of peace. We must find common ground, acknowledge our similarities, focus on those–and pray. Without ceasing. Over every word, spoken and unspoken. We sit in the soil and tenderly plant the seed. Planting seeds is no small thing. And then we sit back, always available but not in the way, and let the Great Gardener do the work of nurturing His own creation.
June 10, 2011