And we can hope to do this because we have beenmade aware of the fact that we are not orphaned, butchildren of the living God, having been made in his im
age and being restored to relationship with him—rec
onciled—through Jesus Christ. In being made aware of God’s embrace, we become empowered to declare it to
others. By the gift of the cross, resurrection and ascen-
sion, we become empowered and inspired to share thetruth with others, something we would never be able to
do effectively on our own.
By extension, if we are able to abide in Christ’s love,and to keep his commandments because we have beenmade aware of the depth of God’s love and care for us,then this must have ramications for the way we sharethe Good News of Christ with others. The lesson from
Acts demonstrates this. In Acts 17:22–31 we see Paul
engaged in the missionary enterprise, taking the Gospel
to the people of Athens.
Paul goes to the public intellectual heart of the city, theAreopagus, which the Romans referred to as Mars Hill.
The Areopagus had served many functions in Athens
over the years, being rst the location where the govern
ing body of the city met, later giving the name to the body itself. By the time of Paul, the Areopagus was a body of intellectuals and philosophers who spent their time debating. Once there, Paul addresses the gather
-ing in a manner we would do well to pay attentionto. Rather than condemn the Athenians as idolatrous pagans foolishly worshiping gods of wood, stone and
metal, Paul compliments the obvious religiosity and
intellectual curiosity of Athenian society.
“Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are inevery way,” he says, going on to connect the gospel
to their experience by referencing their altar to theunknown God. It was common in Greek society, with
Continued from p. 2
their plethora of deities, to have a temple to cover the
rest of your bases. This temple and altar of the un
known God is such an example. However, in Athenianhistory, there had been a plague, the end of which wascredited to the intervention of the unknown God. Paul
takes this opening and says to the Athenians, “Whattherefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim toyou” (Acts 17:23).In this example, we see Paul doing a very importantthing in connecting to something that is good in the so-ciety and complimenting it, connecting it with the truthof the gospel. In addition, as with the keeping of com-mandments in our gospel reading from John, Paul does
not expect his message to connect without there being
some personal engagement. Just as we can only hope
to fulll the commands of Christ because we have beenreconciled to God, knowing now that we are made inthe image and restored by Christ, so too will hearers of the gospel only become receptive once they’ve been
shown the respect and honor due a creature created in
the image of God, no matter how marred the imagemay have become.These two things then, become the principles upon
which all Christian action follows: recognition that all
of us are image-bearers of God, and that all of us are beloved of God. Once we understand this, and act fromthese principles, we may nd that we, as Christians,can come to differing conclusions as to the best course
of action in our personal relationships or in our society,
but we will at least be able to respect one another and
trust that we are operating from the core commitment
of respecting the dignity of every human being (as the
Baptismal Covenant puts it).
Augustine once argued (I’m summarizing) that Chris
-tians can engage the culture (things like sporting
events, plays etc...) because they are good, and all a
Christian is doing in participating (within reason) is
returning the things of God to God. N.T. Wright ex
presses a similar sentiment—though expanded—in
his writing on the new creation. In a personal sense,
sharing the gospel with others can also be seen in thislight. As human beings made in the image of God, each person is fundamentally good in so far as they reectthe goodness of God. In bringing others into relation
ship with Christ, we bring them to the point wherethat goodness, marred by sin, can be restored and its promise fullled. In doing so, we are doingnothing less than returning the things of Godto God.