In the passage below, the Apostle Paul is on a missionary journey and presently in Athens. These are the words that he shared with the philosophers in that city about the foreign deity he was preaching. The part that I pick up is the part that seems to so easily slip past us —because our American culture seems exactly opposite of the culture that existed in Athens some 2000 years ago.
The part that our American culture will so easily get offended at is in verse 31. In it, Paul says that God has set a day for Jesus to judge the world.
Our culture does not like being judged – by ANYONE!
We say things like “you can’t judge me, the Bible says ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’ or we say “take the plank out of your own eye before you judge me.” We typically try to defensively deflect every accusation with religious sounding piety in order to avoid our own sins. We don’t even like the idea of God judging us. Even many of today’s churches lean more toward self-help or personal benefit than actually calling out and dealing with personal sins. Because of our culture’s avoidance of sin we tend to miss the obvious point of this passage.
Not only does verse 31 speak of a day of judgment but it speaks of the proof given by God in the resurrection of the man who will judge. I don’t know if it’s because we are American and have celebrated Easter every year of our lives, but we typically take the resurrection of Jesus from the dead for granted which is the exact point that we should notice in this passage. We know this is true because immediately in verse 32 the author writes that the Athenians took offense and sneered at the concept of the resurrection from the dead. Apparently, they didn’t flinch at the concept of being judged by God, but the idea of a dead man actually coming back to life did.
This causes me to pause. Am I more offended by the idea of judgment than I am enamored by the idea of a dead man who lived again? I have to admit, I do spend more time thinking about judgement than I do the wonderful fact of the resurrection. I suspect that I am not alone in this misaligned faith focus.
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.