I always used to threaten my in-laws when they’d do something extra midwestern by telling them, ‘Ok, that’s going in The Book’ (lovingly titled, And I Lived Among Them. Once, they had a plumber come over to fix their water who happened to be their neighbor… who also happened to be the town mayor. Another time at Thanksgiving I was introduced to Noodles – a true midwest delicacy only served during the holidays. The list goes on…

“Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.”
― Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate

Have you ever been there? Where the odd and strange happen. Have you ever been with them? The outcast and the exile right in their own homes, agenda-less.

Paul did…

Verse: Acts 17:22-27
Paul in Athens

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.

Paul Lived Among Them. He walked their streets. Went into their churches and grocery stores. He did it not so much because of a Mission or an organized outreach but because it was in his nature. And this nature was put there on purpose by God because God is everywhere. He speaks to hearts through many sources throughout any given day. And sometimes, that day is even today – when you’re bored, out and about, maybe wasting time loitering in a shop.

Paul was invited into the inner sanctum of the ‘others’ and met them where they were at. With a shrine to an unknown god that they all knew and perhaps even worshiped at occasionally. He spoke their language, ate their food, and walked their streets.

Something he never did was preach at people. I always felt like he was preaching With people, instead. And less like preaching and more of like talking. Not At but With. An excellent example of what he was not like in the above scripture happens each year in Hannibal, Missouri when they put on their Big River Steampunk Convention. In the middle of the celebration of creativity and excitement, comes a gaggle of people with a megaphone and signs yelling Repent! and, You’re going to Hell! It’s embarrassing, frankly. It makes me cringe inside. They make me want to shout back, ‘Please stop! You’re making us look bad!’

Perhaps its time we confessed to others instead of demanding they confess to us. Perhaps it is time to show up in genuine humility and compassion instead of pomp and circumstance. So that we are known for being different instead of known for being irritating buzz kills with a disingenuous agenda. Just think about it for a moment or two, would you?

Maybe we even need to be a bit more like vampires. We need to go where we’re invited. It’s the difference between breaking and entering into someone’s life and more like being invited over for dinner. Now when’s the last time you thought of ministry like that? Because if you’re not being invited, you’re probably doing something wrong, you know.

God took Paul’s compassion, even his boredom, and used it as His tool. God is ingenious like that. Even boredom can be made holy and used for his purpose when it’s attached to a Right Heart for invitations to arrive.

We need to live among the Thems. We need to eat where they eat and live right down the street from where They live. We need to feel what they feel and weep when they weep. To think and do otherwise is to nurture calloused hearts and idle hands, closed minds and short-sighted words. – Because even unknown gods get their day in the sun.

– Ryan


Ever wanted to publish your own book? Had That Story around forever but wasn’t sure what to do with it? I’d love to help you navigate the publishing process! Just contact me on my author site at https://ryanpfreeman.com to get started.

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