Thursday, May 24, 2012

Acts 17:16-21

Summary retelling of Acts 17:16-21

When Paul was in Athens, he saw a bunch of idols just about everywhere that he went.  So he began to talk to the Jews in the synagogue and anyone who would listen to him within the marketplace.  Many of the non-Jews who heard him either dismissed him as some strange babbling man or they thought he was teaching about some god unknown to them.  They took him to the place where civil discussions and decisions were made in Athens.  They asked Paul to explain his teaching a little more deeply so that they could decide whether or not it was worth listening to him.

Thoughts for Today
First Thought:
Athens was a town that was known for embracing almost anything that had merit.  However, because of their blatant open-mindedness they also seldom bought into anything too deeply.  They believed many things shallowly, not being devout too much.  This is why Paul spies many idols as he goes about the town.  They embraced whatever they could.

What are some of the advantages of having an open-mind?  What are the disadvantages of being too open-minded?

Second Thought:
Notice that Paul does go into the synagogue in Athens.  However, notice that here in Athens we don’t see the Jews getting up in arms at all.  In all the other places we’ve seen Paul visit there was conflict between himself and the really devout Jews.  Here, there is little conflict whatsoever.  This probably means that the Jews in Athens were like the rest of the citizens.  They believed many things, but weren’t very devout to any of them.  Since they had little devotion, there was not much to upset them about.

Why do conflicts usually happen among the genuinely devout?  We know that it is good to be devout, so how can we learn to be genuinely devout but still avoid the nature of finding oneself in conflict rather easily on account of one’s devotion?

Third Thought:
The people of Athens ask Paul if they can hear more about his teaching.  Keep in mind that they don’t likely want to hear so that they can be devout to what he is teaching.  That just wasn’t part of the Athenian culture.  They want to hear what Paul says so that they can add Christianity to the growing list of “accepted practices” in Athens.  Most of the Athenians aren’t looking for something to believe in, they are looking for something else that they can tout around as growing their culture.

How can this be seen as a form of persecution in its own right?  What can we learn from the Athenians about genuinely listening to other people and giving them an ability to explain themselves?  What can we learn from the Athenians about the danger of pursuing knowledge for the sake of the pursuit without actually buying into any particular cause?

Passage for Tomorrow: Acts 17:22-28
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