Thursday, July 3, 2008

Buffet Style Christianity

We all like buffets, right? Especially when your hunger is at its peak! You look over the various choices before you and wonder where you should start! And not wanting to offend any one particular food group, we usually take a little of everything. After our stomachs reach the “Full” line, we back away from the table, loosen our belts and realize that our eyes were much bigger than our stomach! But isn’t that the way life is these days? Don’t we wish that all of our choices were as simple as buffets? Think about it. Even with our faith, we have brought the same consumer mentality into the Church. “I’ll have a little of this, a little of that, but not too much of THAT.” We customize our worship services to resemble a lunch at Luby’s rather than worship of God. And after we’re done, what do we do? We loosen our belts and realize that we took too much of what we didn’t really need and not enough of what we did.

Well, the Greeks had this concept down even better than we do, but they were even more specific. They developed a buffet line for their “gods”. These guys had gods for everything! You name it and you could worship it. They were so afraid of accidentally overlooking and offending a particular god, that they had an alter marker, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD”. Now that’s covering your bases!

The Apostle Paul is called to preach among the non-Jews of the time, and that inevitably brought him to Athens: the Mecca of Greek philosophy and pagan thought. In Acts17, Paul happens upon a place called The Aeropagus (Mars Hill), which was somewhat of the forum and center of philosophical discussions at the time. He encounters the two most common types of philosophers: the Epicureans and the Stoics. Not only were their beliefs radically different from each other, they held to beliefs in complete opposition form Christianity. The Epicureans thought that since man cannot connect with god at all, there was no reason to seek a moral stance on anything in life. The highest value in life was “pleasure” and the only reason that man exists. The Stoics, on the other hand, were much like the Vulcans from Star Trek. These guys taught that all emotions were to be denied and would only cause conflict with seeking moral discipline and morality. They believed that logic and reason were the greatest good and god was the sum of all that is good: namely logic and reason.

Now, Paul could have easily thumped these guys with the proverbial Bible and slammed them for their pagan beliefs, but this is not what he does. Instead, Paul connects with them on the same philosophical mindset that they had been conditioned to live by. He basically tells these deep thinkers, “Hey, I know you guys are smart and love discussion! I love discussion too! Let’s talk about this incredible concept that I have been radically transformed by! I noticed that you guys are seeking god! That’s awesome! You even have an alter “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD”. Perfect! Because I know who He is! Can I tell you about Him?” Now, some of these philosophers walked away, but the Bible says that many wanted to talk more about Christ. Why? Because Paul grabbed their attention. He met them where they were. He met them where they lived and thought like they thought. He went through their buffet line and showed them where the real nourishment was.

So, when was the last time we took the time to connect with non-believers on their level? Where they are and where they live? After all, we are all seeking “truth” on this journey of life. Some have just gotten off the path a bit. God is still God and wants to connect with everyone on their own specific and customized level.

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