The balance between being “holy” (“set apart”, “different than anything else”) and being part of the culture around us is a tricky one to maintain. Some say that we as Christians should remain separate from the world, avoiding it’s entertainments (Christians have shunned everything from movies and television to games and cards to sports and shopping for this reason) and morals. Others have said that “if we are so heavenly minded then we are no earthly good”. This story from Paul gives us a clue about this balance.
Paul has obviously read non-Jewish (there were no “Christian” anything yet) philosophers and teachers, for he quotes them to win his audience. He has strolled their boulevards and examined their statues and artwork. In fact, an idol to a foreign god becomes the opening illustration of one of his greatest sermons. You see, the Athenians didn’t want to offend any of the gods because they were vengeful and would lash out at entire cities over the slightest offense. So they no only made idolatrous statues to every god they knew but then made one last one, titled “to an unknown god” which they could claim was for any god they might have forgotten. A nice plan for appeasing any god.
But Paul uses this, saying, “you don’t know this god, but I do and need to tell you about Him. In fact, He’s the king of all gods, and the Creator, the Greatest of all of the gods.” He then goes into an evangelistic sermon and converts many. And even those who are not converted are at least intrigued.
So is this story permission if not command to keep up with the latest trends, to know the latest movies and shows, and to read non-Christian thinkers, all for the purpose of evangelism? Many of my youth pastor seminars were about this very thing. They called it relevance, but Paul called it evangelism. I’m not suggesting that you binge Game of Thrones in the name of God, but maybe staying holy is less about the shows we watch and the games we play and more about our hearts and goals.