Now while Paul was awaiting them at Athens, his spirit was grieved and roused to anger as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned and argued in the synagogue with the Jews and those who worshiped there, and in the marketplace [where assemblies are held] day after day with any who chanced to be there. Acts 17:16-17 AMPC
Several years ago, as a University student, I returned from an evangelism outreach one evening to meet my hostel weekly fellowship going on. That evening, the brother that led in prayers echoed to us the realties of a growing wickedness at the off-campus area where we lived. We had lived there at a time when there were no much University students in that environment; hence the environment was quieter and saner. However, with each passing day more hostels were built and more students moved into the area, and with that was a concomitant increase in wickedness (you get what I mean, right?)
That night, as the prayers went on, my spirit got stirred inside of me; so I left the prayer meeting that was still going on, changed the batteries of a megaphone that was in my hostel to new ones, and went forth into the streets. With my shirt unbuttoned and flying in the air, and with my voice blasting loud on the megaphone, I ‘shouted’ down the Gospel on my street that evening pacing the street and preaching. By the time I finished my shouting exercise and returned back to my hostel (having eased the burden in my heart), I met one of my brothers, a law student, though the fellowship had ended, he was still at one corner praying. I joined him for sometime and then had to leave him when I discovered that he had no agenda of stopping the prayer soon. Now, was my action the best approach? We will come to that in a moment; just follow on.
However, permit me to say that it is a tragedy when our hearts are no longer stirred and angered by wickedness in our society. It is a tragedy to see how that we live in a society with many idols, and we are completely at home with it. It appears like we have adjusted to the darkness and has learnt to live with it. We may live so today, but such was not the manner of our fathers in the faith.
It was not like it was in Athens that Paul saw idols for the first time. He had seen it severally as an ordinary young man, and even in the course of his missionary journeys. However, unlike many of us, he never got used to it. He may have just wanted to rest a while in Athens, but when he saw the number of idols in Athens, his spirit was stirred and he knew he could no longer keep quiet about it. He had to take actions.
It was some hundreds of years ago before Paul even was born, when a certain plague broke out in the Greek city of Athens. Being a city with many philosophers and idols, they took a decision to send out a flock of sheep and watch as those sheep move into different areas. Whichever shrine those sheep got into or close to it, they will sacrifice the sheep to that god. However, there were some sheep that went close to no shrine, and this caused the Athenians to suspect that there was this unknown God who they must have offended. Hence, they built altars and offered sacrifices to THE UNKNOWN GOD. It is worthy of note that it was this shrine that Paul leveraged on when he had to speak to them about the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, what did Paul do when his spirit was stirred? He did not go on the street shouting down the Gospel like I did in my own time. Rather, he engaged the sons of men, the great men of Athens, in a conversation. Starting from the synagogue of the Jews, down to the market place (wherever people gathered and men were given the chance to speak), Paul leveraged it to preach and project his faith. He utilized every opportunity at his disposal to reason with, argue and interact with men and women of Athens. With time, as he consistently spoke in the marketplace, men began to notice him until he got an invitation to the high council on Mars Hill (called the Areopagus); and his speech at that high council will be subject of our next discussion.
AND SO? How is your heart at this point in life? Are you being stirred up and angered by the evil going on in the society (the corruption, the sexual immorality, etc.) Or are we becoming insensitive and uncaring of the world around us?
Secondly, if we are concerned, what are we doing about it? How well are we leveraging the marketplace (wherever people assemble) in order to project the superior realities of the Gospel of Jesus, or have we carefully reduced our marketplace activities (social media, workplace, etc) to merely doing what will benefit us, and not caring to confront our generation with the truth of the Gospel of Christ?
May God help us all. Amen.