The Areopagus: A Focal Point of Athens
As Paul stood on the Areopagus overlooking the grand city of Athens, he began his famous speech from Acts of the Apostles, one that would go down in history and change the lives of many. He spoke strategically, captivating his audience and opening many of their eyes to the wonders of God. To this day, the rock still holds its history and spirituality, as do so many other places built by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Visiting the Acropolis brought me closer to God, and truly changed me. Although not built for the Christian God, I still was able to feel His presence and saw Him in the beauty of everyday things.
The Areopagus, a simple rock, holds a rich past. The apostle Paul went to Greece to spread the word of Christ in hopes of converting the pagan Greeks. He went to Athens—one of the most powerful cities in ancient history, the birthplace of democracy, a city feared by some and admired by many. The city of the pagan goddess Athena, Athens was oblivious to the knowledge of the one and only God. Sure Socrates might have tried to tell the people of Athens about God, but many people’s eyes were still closed to the wisdom and love of the one and only God. So Paul, seeing how devout the people were to Athena, thought it was right for him to teach them about Christ. He began his speech by relating to them, capturing his audience's attention. He said, “People of Athens, I see that in every way you are religious.” This was completely true—they made sacrifices, built temples, and prayed to their gods. The Athenians knew this, and it made them want to listen to what else Paul had to say. After grabbing their attention, Paul delivered his main point, the words he had been waiting to say: “For as I walked around and looked carefully, I found an altar with this inscription: To An Unknown God. What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.” He was trying to tell the people of Athens about God and how without even knowing it, they had built an altar to Him. That unknown God was the Christian God, a loving and forgiving one, unlike their brutal and jealous gods. While some of Paul’s audience left, the ones that stayed and believed were changed forever. These words changed the lives of many thereafter, and this sacred spot where Paul stood still manages to help people get closer to God and to remember this important day. The purpose of this speech was to help the Greeks realize that they were on the right path, but just needed that extra little push of faith to leave their pagan lives behind and start afresh in the eyes of God. It was not easy, as humans dislike change. The Athenians were at the height of their power, living lavish lifestyles, so why leave that behind in exchange for a simpler life? Yet this is what some of them did. They had faith and believed that this was the better life, one filled with God's unconditional love.
As I stood on the Acropolis overlooking the rock, I saw all of that. I closed my eyes and imagined Paul climbing up, praying to God and Christ for wisdom. As he got up on the rock where the crowd stood, he delivered his speech. Some laughed, others yelled, most left, but the few who stayed were amazed—their eyes open wide, ears ready to hear what else this man had to say. Sadly we were unable to stand on the rock itself, but standing near it at the Acropolis, I was still transfixed. I saw Jesus in the beauty of this place and admired the people who had faith and believed.
Walking through the Acropolis and the Temple of Poseidon, I saw Jesus everywhere—in the way the trees swayed gracefully, or in how people’s faces lit up with excitement when they reached the top of their climb. Although these two places were not built to worship the Christian God, I still felt His presence. The Athenians built these places not knowing who the Christian God was, but I still believe that although these temples were built for the pagan divinities, God was still there; he was always there waiting for the Athenians to believe. He was there with them all the time, and showered them with love although they knew nothing about Him. To this day, God's presence is still in these places, guiding everyone and giving them the strength to believe.