Acts 17:22-23 …People 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. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you…
I love how Paul started with where they were religiously and built on that in his argument.
That’s how we are taught by my church (Hope Community in Raleigh) “Love people where they are and encourage them to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Paul knew his audience, he knew they were religious, they just lacked the right religion. He even pokes at the hole in their religion, noting the “unknown god.” They were good at covering their bases by including a blanket god that they might not know about, but they had to have taken pause with Paul’s assertion. Sometimes we’re doing something and we don’t see the fallacy in it until someone points it out to us.
I had a suitor once, before my beloved entered my life, and he said to me, “Why do you keep talking about your father?”
I was taken aback. Did I? My father was a dynamic man, who did amazing things, and some called him a ‘Renaissance man.’ He traveled the world, had adventures, met famous people, did amazing things, so it was hard NOT to talk about his latest exploit.
I was hurt by the suitor’s assertation. And, a little chagrined. Was I really living vicariously through my father? Was I continuing in my childhood role as audience and cheerleader to his escapades?
Gulping humility, I had to realize that I was. I wasn’t living my own adventures; I was watching his.
That’s why close friends are so important. We need friends to speak truth lovingly into us and bring to light where we might be off balance.
Now, that suitor wasn’t a friend, but rather a mere acquaintance, and he didn’t stick around (thank goodness, so I could go on to meet my husband), but he spoke truth to me. And, MORE IMPORTANTLY, I listened. Thankfully, I didn’t get defensive. And, that’s the key. If someone speaks to truth to us, it’s important that we listen.
Our immediate reaction is to defend, deflect and degrade their opinion. But, to be better humans, we need to take the constructive criticism to ponder it and test its validity, and wonder at where we might grow.
(NOTE: I’m NOT talking about criticism with ill intent, or someone badgering us to change for their benefit, but I’m talking about genuine, constructive criticism, offered without personal motives or ambitions.)
Maybe, if we listen with open minds, like Paul’s audience, we can see the fallacy in what we’re doing, or how we’re acting, and go on to make positive changes in our lives.
Why not gulp a little humility if it makes us better people?