The Apostle Paul was on his second missionary journey, and had come quite a ways, passing through many cities, preaching the good news to all who would listen, and being sent out of not a few of the cities he had entered. There were a few in Thessalonica who believed, but most didn’t and caused much trouble for him, running him out. There were many Bereans, also who believed, but those Thessalonicans came after and ran him out of Berea, too. (Acts 17:1-14) This brought him to Athens, were his spirit was stirred for the people who had been in idolatry. (vs 15&16) So, he discussed Jesus openly with the Greek scholars who mostly regarded him as a babbler, because what they heard was so strange to them (vs 17&18) and finally, they took him up to Mars’ Hill so they could all hear what he had to say (vs 19&20).
“Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” Acts 17:22&23
To understand the correlation about to be made, a bit of knowledge of Greek religion will help. The Greeks worshiped many gods. The most famous was the father of the gods, Zeus. There were also Athena, Hermes, Ares, and many more. Each god had an attribute that they were associated with. Athena was the goddess of love, Ares, the god of war, and Hermes was the messenger of the gods. Anything and everything that one could think of had a god, demigod, or lesser god assigned to it. It was crazy ridiculous, confusing, and, well, just plain ignorant. What was really happening was that each person could choose the god they wished to follow and worship. Generally, they would inevitably choose the god that conformed to their own individual ethics, desires, or ideas of what their life should be like. In a nut shell, they choose the god that was like them. Of course, they believed that the entire pantheon of gods existed, so they would not disrespect any other gods, or those gods’ followers, which is why they had erected a statue to the unknown god, just in case there was one they missed. They sure wouldn’t have wanted to upset that one god. Which is interesting, and Paul recognizes this and tells them the Truth they were denying, and that is there is only One God, and He is the God they were so afraid of upsetting. He explains the entirety of the gospel, and some come to believe, though most do not at this time.
The correlation is this: in today’s world, and especially the United States, there are many gods being worshiped. None are the One True God, though, unless of course, you are a believer of Jesus Christ, and it is He Whom you worship. Those gods are being worshiped all around us. There are Allah, Buddha, Mary, Joseph Smith, over 330 million Hindu gods, Satan, and of course Self. All of the people who worship these gods want to be left alone to worship how they wish without being persecuted. They do not want someone to tell them they are wrong in their choice, and so they tolerate all of the other religions, even though they think everyone else is wrong. This has bred the “what’s true for you” ideal, which totally denies God, for Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” (John 14:6) What’s more, God said, “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me” (Isaiah 45:5) So, there is but one Truth, and One God. Because that One God has told us to teach all nations about Him, baptizing and teaching them to observe what He says (Matt 28:19&20), this causes a problem in that we must tell them the very thing they do not want to hear, that they are wrong. We don’t come right out and say so, but that is what they hear, and they translate that to intolerance on our behalf.
It is not that we are intolerant. We are tolerant of many things. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith.” (Gal 5:22) Long suffering makes us to be tolerant, but the tolerance we have is to endure the ridicule and the shame for our belief. By speaking the gospel of peace, we are fulfilling the command of the Lord, Who said He would be with us while we did this, and that He came to divide. (Luke 12:51) In this, we show our love to Him, and to others. To Him, by obedience, and to others in sharing the Truth that will save their souls. This is not the love the world knows, nor desires, but it is True Love. They do not want to see this, nor hear it, and it will usually cause us to have to move on, but there is always a remnant who may come, and the seed we plant in those who do not. Whatever happens, there is one more correlation to look at.
Mars’ Hill is named after the Roman god Mars. Mars was the equivalent of Ares in the Greek. Remember, Ares was the Greek god of war. The apostle Paul stood in the midst Mars’ Hill. Paul was doing battle with the Greek pantheon, and in fact, standing on the Hill of the god of war, he was demonstrating the spiritual principle that he himself writes in Ephesians. This is a war, but we don’t fight it in the flesh. It is fought in the spirit “against principalities, against powers, and against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6:12) But, he also reminds us of the victory we have in Christ. (1Cor 15:57) Paul does not back down, though he is called a babbler, and mocked. He speaks the Truth, standing in the Truth, trusting in Christ, having the victory, and walks away with peace, joy, and love. So, as we face those today who do not want to hear the Truth, may we do the same. May we know exactly what to say, how to say it, when the moment arrives to say it. May the Holy Spirit give us the words to speak, and anoint our conversation, as He did the Apostle’s. May they who ignorantly worship their unknown to God gods (Isaiah 44:8) have ears to hear.