Submitted by Jan on Tue, 20/05/2014 – 11:06
Year A (2013-2014)
Bible Book: Acts / Handelinge
Verse: 22 – 31
In our focus text today, Acts 17:22-31, Paul uses an age old diplomacy/wisdom of complimenting people in order to get their cooperation and attention. When we speak, the aim is that people listen to us to hear the message. It is not that they will always agree with us or do what we try to communicate to them, but at least to hear it and know.
Though Paul does not condone the idol worship practised by Greeks in Athens, he does not antagonise them by condemning these practises and labelling them as pagan or something else. Instead he uses this in a positive way by praising them for the fact that they are very religious. This is affirmation and makes people feel good. He even uses as proof of this, a very odd example of a “Temple erected for an Unknown god”, that he saw while exploring their city. This helped Paul to get the Athenians’ to listen to what he wanted to teach them about the One True God. Accepting or rejecting Him is another story. The approach we take in getting people to listen to us, when we want to correct them from something wrong or to teach them something, largely determines our success or failure. If we show respect to them and uphold their dignity, we are more likely to get their unbiased attention to our message. The likelihood is also high that we might move them from their position to the truth that we tell them about.
By acknowledging the presence of temples to unknown gods, Paul was able to get the uninterrupted opportunity to teach the Athenians about the true God. He was able to outline to them the four attributes of this God (verses 24-25) that: He is the Creator; He is the Lord over everything; He is Omnipotent and cannot be confined to temples and that He is Self-existent and does not need things sacrificed to him like is done for idols. Above all, that God is the only one to be worshipped. Whether the people accept what you teach them or not, what is important is that they have heard and acquired the new knowledge imparted to them, which they did not have before. With that information and knowledge the people can be confronted with what needs to be done, like Paul did. In verses 31-32 Paul tells his hearers that “those times of ignorance God has overlooked and He commands all people everywhere to repent/change from old ways”. After having heard what the right thing to do is, people can no more claim ignorance. This message of repentance is very relevant at this time of Easter as we continue to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. He did His part of dying to save us, we have to do ours to accept the salvation and follow him.
Our duty and calling in this time of HIV and AIDS is to speak the Truth in Love and bring Hope by proclaiming God’s unconditional Love to everyone, as Paul says in our text today. We are to give appropriate and factual information about how to avoid unnecessary deaths from this pandemic. We should not judge and condemn but share the message of how to save lives. The response is the responsibility of those who hear the message. Some will take up the message immediately and enthusiastically and use it, others will think it over but delay to use it even though they know it is for their good, others will be indifferent to it, while others will reject it outright. The messenger has done his or her duty and is not to blame at all. So you cannot say you will stop proclaiming the message because some people do not change.
To think about: What can we do to be always positive even when we are faced with correcting sensitive issues or changing behaviour and attitudes, especially to those infected and affected by HIV and AIDS?
Fr Tsepo Matubatuba, Anglican Priest in Alexandra, South Africa. Trained Churches, Channels of Hope facilitator.
Author: Matubatuba, T (Rev)