Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?.... ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring. Acts 17:19-34
The proverbial saying, “variety is the spice of life,” is an original quote from the English poet William Cowper (1731-1800) book of poetry published in 1785. The concept however dates back to the Greek dramatist Euripides (485-406 BC) who said, “a change is always nice” in his book Orestes. In 1681, dramatist Aphra Behn said “Variety is the soul of pleasure.”
These proverbial sayings share the idea that new and exciting practices make life more attractive. They convey the perspective that trying a different approach can open our minds to different types of experiences and give us exciting and unexpected results. People who oppose diversity and variety are short-changing the quality of the life they can experience. After all, God is the author of diversity. Indeed, the Lord created the world with all its diversity and said that it was good. To oppose or reject diversity is to reject the God who created it.
In today’s text, Paul is proclaiming the gospel in the great city of Athens. The Athenians were renowned for their sophistry. Indeed, Athens was the main educational, intellectual, and cultural center of Ancient Greece. The Athenian Stoics and sophists devoted their lives to the pursuit of knowledge. They took pride in their intellectual prowess. Paul could not preach the gospel in Athens the same way he did everywhere else. He needed a different approach.
Paul went to the Areopagus that was a forum for the rulers of Athens to hold trials, debate, and discuss important matters. All the important decisions for the city of Athens were made in the Areopagus. By going to the Areopagus to preach the gospel, Paul challenging the cultural-religious norms of the Athenians in a way that triggered their curiosity before rejecting his teaching. Paul even quoted their own poets to make his point about the deity of Christ. Paul talked to the Athenians like a philosopher though his message was theological.
It is okay to use different approaches in proclaiming the gospel to different people. When I share the gospel with Muslims, I like to quote the Koran’s teaching about Jesus. I don’t mind using the Bhagavad Gita in sharing the gospel with people from the Hindu religion. Like Paul, I learn to be all things to all people so that I may save some (1 Corinthians 9:22).
In the 18th century, notable revivalists like John Wesley and John Calvin used to preach in public places decrying the lifestyle of the “heathens” and inviting them to come to Christ. These days, I doubt it would be beneficial to stand on a street corner to tell people how much of a miserable sinner they are to invite them to give their lives to Christ. In these days of social media and COVID-19, we need different approaches to share the gospel more effectively.
I know a former police officer who became an avid skateboarder so he can share the gospel with the youth in his city. Some brothers and sisters are joining biker’s organizations so they can share the gospel. Our churches’ missionary partners in Niger have assimilated themselves into the Nigerian culture so they can minister to the Nigerian people. They are using medicine and agronomy to spread the gospel more meaningfully and relevantly.
As we endeavor to share the gospel with nonbelievers, let us remember, “Variety is the spice of life.” Do not be afraid to use a different approach with people from different culture, or religious background. Even within our own family context, we have to be open to using different approaches. Social media has given us access to the world right from our cellphone or computer. We should be mindful of using these mediums dynamically and strategically to reach people where they are as we spread the gospel of truth.
Questions for Personal Reflection
How is God calling you to use the gospel differently in your sphere of influence?
How can diversity increase your effectiveness in sharing the gospel?
Prayer- Oh Lord, you who authored diversity and created a world with variety, please give me the courage and wisdom to meet people where they are as I share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.