This was a time when I inadvertently showed you what not to do. My wife pointed it out to me when I read her yesterday’s Catch last night.
In yesterday’s Catch, I included a list summarizing Paul’s strategy in Acts 17, in approaching the Greek philosophers who dominated the Athenian marketplace. The first part of that list includes:
Observe the culture.
Find something you can compliment them on.
Find something you can agree with.
Find out what people are worshiping.
Ask how that’s going for them.
That last one, “Ask how that’s going for them,” is the culprit. It’s not in the text. It’s not even implied. It just popped in my head; I thought it was cool; I wrote it down without thinking. It is nothing but a smart ass statement that doesn’t belong there, and I make a point of it today not just by way of correction, but to show how tempting it is to subtly put down those who believe differently. And just to underline how tempting this is to do, I did it in the context of trying to make to opposite point. It completely erases what might have been accomplished by paying attention to the first four steps.
I tried to use sarcasm to show how I was superior to others who worship the wrong God. “So hows’s that going for you?” I said, totally ignoring and contradicting the very graciousness I was suggesting we exhibit.
Why did I put it in?
I had a friend who used to always say, “Why be cute when you’re already beautiful?” That question applies here because that’s exactly what I did. I had a beautiful argument going based on the strategy of Paul in reaching the people in the marketplace in Athens, and then I had to throw this in because I was trying to be cute. Bad idea.
When a person starts talking about their personal beliefs, the last thing you want to say is “So how’s that going for you?” It’s haughty. It’s arrogant. It’s stand-offish. It has nothing to do with putting your feet in the shoes of someone else. It’s judgmental. It’s everything I stand against.
So please strike that sentence and let’s get back to the rest of the list:
Look for something you can attach the message of the gospel to.
Look for what you can use from art, poetry, film, theater and the general culture.
Affirm, don’t condemn.
Embrace your own need while trying to point out theirs.
Don’t feel like you have to say everything you know in one hearing.
And whatever you do, don’t try to be cute.