"So they took him and brought him to the Areopagus and asked him, ‘May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? It sounds rather strange to us, so we would like to know what it means.' Now all the Athenians and the foreigners living there would spend their time in nothing but telling or hearing something new." - Acts 17:19-21
Pagans don't usually come off so well in our Bible. But I gotta say, I like these Athenians. I mean, Paul has basically made a career of being a jerk and annoying everybody in sight. If he's not holding people's cloaks while they stone somebody, he's writing scathing letters or making the authorities so mad they throw him in jail and/or execute him. Prickly, you know?
I can't imagine he dialed it back any as he stood there preaching in the middle of all those temples to pagan gods. And yet, here are the people of Athens, not rioting but instead courteously asking him to a sophisticated Mars Hill salon to share his ideas.
And they say a most remarkable thing as they do it: "That sounds weird; help us understand." The world could use a little more of that energy. So could the church.
"That sounds weird; get out." You hear that all the time.
"It sounds rather strange to us; kill it!" Dime a dozen.
"I don't understand that; tase it and cuff it!" Just turn on the news tonight and you'll see that going down.
Not the Athenians, though; they've made it their business to be curious about new things that show up in their midst. Not many would end up being convinced of what Paul had to say. But for at least some of them, what would end up happening is that they met a living God.
Oh God, you are weird as heck. Help me understand. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.