It’s interesting to see how cultures and societies evolve and even disappear. The modern Greeks have got themselves into a right old economic and political mess, and yet 2000 years ago Athens was one of the great cities of the classical world. It was a cultural centre and home to the great philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, as well as many renowned dramatists and artists. Athens was one of the first known democracies in history, and inspired the foundation of democracies in our own time. But above all, Athenians were an intellectually curious people. As St. Luke tells us, they “used their time for nothing else but telling or hearing something new.” (Acts 17:21).
But while the Athenians were busy filling their minds, their hearts remained unsatisfied. St. Paul knew this because of the shrines he saw there devoted to so many different deities—gods of weather, war, agriculture, learning, and many more. And yet despite all these gods, they knew something was missing, for they had erected an altar to “an unknown God”. St. Paul used that altar to make his point: what all their gods couldn’t do for them, this unknown god could—and his name was Jesus Christ.
These Athenians are not unlike many people today who are looking for God and may not even know it. They may have successful careers and a good family. They may own the latest in technology and be on the cutting edge of news, knowledge, and culture, yet still be discontented. They may possess so much, but have so little internally to show for it.
How can we help those who are still searching? How can we show them that Jesus really is the “unknown god” everyone is looking for? It may go against our common sense, but the best way is for us to discover Jesus more deeply in our own lives. We can’t think that we are immune to the temptation to look elsewhere for fulfilment and meaning. The deeper our faith, the more clearly our light will shine. We will demonstrate a sense of contentment that will surprise everyone who seeks the truth. Our willingness to forgive, our peace amid struggles, our wisdom for life— all of these will tell everyone around us that we have found peace and truth. And if we can, so can everyone.