Maybe God is out of touch with what is going on in the world? It is a popular thought. People are being bombarded with one crisis after another. The tragedies unfold in all shapes and sizes from human inflicted pain to natural disasters. It is easy to wonder if God is paying attention. Sixty-three percent of Americans still believe in God, but a growing number of individuals are joining Stephen Hawkins’ conclusion: “There is no God.”1
For most people the role of God in their life is not as black and white as “I believe in God” and “There is no God.” Most think He exists, but they struggle with understanding His ability to relate to them. They believe He knows more, sees more and cares more than the average human. They think He wants to help, but the world has become too complex…too far-gone…too advanced. He is like an endeared politician, who at one time was a political juggernaut, but now appears to have lost a step.
In 2008, during the prime of his political career, Martin Wisckol of the Orange County Register interviewed Senator John McCain. In an odd exchange of questions Senator McCain was asked, “When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost?” The question obviously caught the senator off guard. Here was his response:
“Oh, I don’t remember. Now there’s Secret Service protection. But I’ve done it for many, many years. I don’t recall and frankly, I don’t see how it matters. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of town hall meetings, many as short a time ago as yesterday. I communicate with the people and they communicate with me very effectively.”2
I am not picking on or disrespecting the senator. I consider him an American hero who has dedicated his life to civil service, but his answer clearly showed just how out of touch he was with the common American in 2008. At that time he was an above-average political leader (a six-term U.S. Senator and Representative from Arizona and presidential candidate), an honored war hero and a political maverick. He had earned the reputation of challenging the status quo in American politics, yet he could not remember the last time he pumped his own gas. Instead, he rattled the Secret Service did that for him. How nice. Caught off guard by the question, he inadvertently revealed just how privileged his life was, and apparently had been for a long time. He flippantly excused the menial task of pumping and paying for gas as irrelevant to his ability to know and connect with the average American.
In spite of his popularity and achievements, he exposed just how far removed he was from the people he was trying to help. This is the convoluted view many people have about God. They respect Him and remember His great reputation, but doubt He really understands where they live?
In spite of our 4G, 4k, Alexa world, spiritually we have not advanced much past the 1st Century citizen of Athens, Greece. They too were confused about God. Peering into their social, political and philosophical world we discover their city contained a forest of idols; statues that represented the different gods accepted by their society. They, like us, valued being religiously inclusive. No one had the right to tell someone else their god didn’t exist or the morals their god represented were wrong. There were many truths—not one. Does that sound familiar? The only difference between them and us; we don’t make statues. Our idol is our right to believe whatever we want.
In their efforts to leave no one out, they even erected a statue to “The Unknown God.”3 They did not want to overlook a deity or offend its followers. They were open to new ideas and truth could not be absolute. This created another issue that closely relates to our current times. They were addicted to information.
They did not have Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Fox News, CNN and NPR did not exist. Instead, they had the Areopagus. Imagine a gathering of intellectual elites who had the authority to form public opinion. That was the Areopagus. We are told people gathered there to spend “their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.”4 Sounds like surfing the Internet or watching national news. They were addicted to hearing something new and then adding their 2 cents. Even if the process was futile, they did not stop. They could not stop, because they were so unsatisfied and frustrated with what they already knew. Again, sounds like us.
It was in this environment that God sent an interruption. His name was Paul. We are told Paul walked among their statues and started talking to people about Jesus. He spiked their curiosity because they had never heard of this God. They wanted to hear more so they scheduled him to speak at the Areopagus. Some were sincere in their quest to understand Paul’s God. Others were just looking for a good debate. Either way, God interrupted their world.
The reason this episode recorded in Acts is so important is because God reveals His relevancy. He proves He knows what it is like to stand at the pump, but reveals the pump could be the interruption we need to find God. Through Paul, God reminded everyone He is intricately involved in every human’s life. We will dig into it in the next time.