Reaching the Lost; Both Far and Near
Dr. Eugene M. Sadhu
26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live,so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’
Apologetics is the use of reason to provide an explanation of and defense for what we believe. (1 Peter 3:15) Today’s Bible passage is taken from Paul’s discourse in Athens. We see Paul stressing the oneness of all peoples across cultures and eras and God’s desire for all humanity. God made the nations and set their boundaries. God set apart times for each person to live. He desired the people He created to search for and to find Him.
Unlike his discussions in the synagogues with the Jews, Paul could not appeal to Scripture to reason with the people and explain why Jesus was the Way. Instead, Paul began by building a cultural bridge. He appealed to the philosophers his audience knew (Epimenides and Aratus) and shared the Truth of the Good News. This was not syncretism; Paul was very careful to avoid that. It was, however, a way to introduce the unknown via something that was known. The strategy of meeting people where they are and showing them The Way should not be foreign to us, after all, it is the same one that God uses to find us!
For missionaries and evangelists in “far off” mission fields, sharing the Gospel with indigenous peoples, the need to find areas of commonality and to use even secular culture or examples is obvious. In much the same way, however, whereas perhaps even a couple generations ago, we could reasonably expect our neighbors in the US, Canada, and Europe to have some basic familiarity with the basic tenets and vocabulary of the Christian faith, today, we cannot make that assumption. We live in post-Christian, multicultural communities that have been heavily secularized and have seen our Christian vocabulary coopted by every cult and kind of false teaching. Words like “sin”, “salvation”, and “savior” have been redefined and confused. So, we, like Paul, need to adapt and use the cultural references the people know, build cultural bridges, and point our neighbors to the ultimate Truth.
There are many excellent resources to help equip us to know why we believe what we believe and then share the Gospel. Find some and read them along with the Bible. Then ask God to give you wisdom and understanding so that you will “always be ready to answer everyone who asks you to explain about the hope you have” 1 Peter 3:15 (EXB).
Thought for the day:
Every Marthomite is a missionary. Your neighborhood is your mission field today. Your neighbors, the ones you are to reach.
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray for the courage, wisdom, and willingness to follow your commands and share the Good News we have received with our neighbors today. At the same time, we ask your blessings, mercies, and grace on your servants who share and the people who receive the Gospel with all the peoples of the world. Amen.
Bethel MTC, IL