Open Discussion on Campus
Saturday, Gusti and Jeta Prenga ate lunch with us. They serve with Cru in Albania and shared about one of the students they mentored at the university in Tirana. He is now the leader of outreach in another city. “His team met together and made it their goal for the year to have a personal conversation about Jesus with 1000 students. We thought their goal was crazy, but at the end of year they had reached almost nine hundred students and over one hundred had decided to believe in Jesus.”
It’s this kind of open discussion that the Apostle Paul initiated way back in the first century. By the middle of the first century Athens had lost some of the glory days of Socrates and Pericles, but even the Romans respected the culture and intellectual power of the city. And Luke gives us an example of how the great Apostle Paul connected with a group of learned philosophers at what we could call the outdoor lecture hall of the University of Athens.
“So Paul stood up in the middle of the Areopagus and said, ‘Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For walking around and examining carefully your objects of worship I found an altar with the inscription, ‘To An Unknown God.’ Therefore, what you worship in ignorance, this I declare to you.
God, the one who made the world and all things in it, is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not dwell in temples made with hands. And He is not served by human hands as if He needed anything from us, since He gave us life and breath and all things. Out of one man He made all the races of men to dwell upon the entire face of the earth.
He set up the times ordained for them and the boundaries where they should live. His purpose was for them to seek Him, if indeed they might grope for Him and find Him, although actually He’s not far from any one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone—an image, a representation, made by the technical skill and imagination of men. Therefore, in past times God overlooked such ignorance, but now He is commanding all men everywhere to repent, because He has fixed a day in which the entire world will be judged justly. This judging will be done by the man He has appointed. This fact is verified by the fact that God raised him from the dead.’
Now when they heard about the resurrection from the dead, some of them began to mock, but others said, ‘Let’s hear from you again about these things.’ So Paul went out from among them. But some of the men joined him and believed, among them was Dionysius, the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris and others with them.” Acts 17:22-34
The structure of Paul’s lecture is clear. The statues around the Areopagus demonstrate that Greeks are devoted to gods. An inscription on one of their images opens a door to talk about the Creator of Heaven and Earth. Just a glance up at the stars proves the fallacy of thinking this Creator could ever be confined in a stone building made by human hands, and the One who gave us the gift of life hardly needs a hand from us humans. As Creator, he could have stayed at a distance from the humans he created (the Epicureans, like Deists believed this was so), but Paul points out that his gift of seasons and land for us to live in demonstrates his compassion for us.
He is not distant but as close as our breath. He actually sustains each one of us daily. Therefore, we don’t have to look far to find Him. We all have a sense of right and wrong in our soul and this leads to the fact that there should be a day when justice wins. Paul not only declares that this Day is coming, but he knows the name of the One who will be the judge. The fact that God raised Jesus from the dead proves that Jesus is the Man who will ultimately be the One we stand before. It’s time to turn to Him now. At this point Paul’s audience terminated the lecture.
There’s nothing new about either faculty or students on university campuses walking out or ending the discussion when their dominant worldviews are challenged. This happened to the Apostle Paul hundreds of years ago, but not everyone was close-minded. Dionysius, one of their own, and a woman named Damaris and others joined Paul in believing in Jesus. We can expect the same kind of results today, and, with Gusti and Jeta, we need to be out there talking about Jesus.
LORD, thanks for brothers and sisters throughout the world teaching at universities and who are not ashamed for students to discover that they believe in the Gospel. Help the Albanian university students who believed in Jesus this year to keep maturing in their relationship with you.
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