Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.
Thoughts for Today:The people of Athens were very religious, so much so they had built over 3,000 altars and temples to various deities throughout the city. Not wanting to miss one they might not have known or thought about, they even built an altar dedicated "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD." Paul uses this as his opening, telling them this "UNKNOWN GOD" is the one I'm going to tell you about.
As I read our passage today, I couldn't help think about the similarity between the Athenians and present day America. The Athenians placed great value on independent thought and opinion. They even gave even someone like Paul the opportunity to present his views, no matter how different (one God) and revolutionary (resurrection of the dead) they might sound.
In our country, as recently as the fall of 2007, Columbia University in New York hosted a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is the same Iran that was rattling its saber against Israel and rest of the non-Islamic world. Columbia gave President Ahmadinejad a nationally televised public forum at one of our universities despite the fact he had previously spoken these words:
* "The Zionists are the true manifestation of Satan."
* "Israel is destined for destruction and will soon disappear."
* "A new Middle East will prevail without the existence of Israel."
* "Are they human beings? They (Zionists) are a group of blood-thirsty savages putting all other criminals to shame."
* Israel is "a regime based on evil that cannot continue and one day will vanish."
* "Today, they [Europeans] have created a myth in the name of Holocaust and consider it to be above God, religion and the prophets."
It seems we are so open minded that we give Hitleresque figures the opportunity to express their vision of murder, terrorism, and genocide under the guise of "freedom of speech." When do we draw the line and say, "We are not interested in anything further you have to say?" At the same time, our schools will not permit a modern-day Paul to read Scripture or preach God's message of love, hope and peace from the same pulpit given to people like Ahmadinejad!
The Athenians gave Paul the opportunity to speak about his faith in one of their most prestigious forums. Although they had never heard his message before, he didn't preach violence, terrorism, war, or genocide. Yet I'm sure even their well developed sense of curiosity had the limit of sensibility. How did we lose ours?
Questions to Ponder:I know today's devotion may evoke considerable debate regarding appropriate limits on freedom of speech. In my opinion, some of these freedoms have been taken past the point of rational sensibility. When does my right to not be subjected to immoral things take precedent over someone else's right to view it and distribute it without limits?
I think our country has gone too far in many areas. What do you think?
How can we win back the right to express the message of God's love in a public arena which often denies the message the right to be heard?