Paul, a traveling evangelist, makes his way to Athens, Greece, a center and seat of culture, knowledge, philosophy and law.
He looks around the city, and sees lots of statues and markers and religious expressions. One of these is a marker dedicated to an unknown god: perhaps a realization in humility that people still don’t know and can’t grasp all there is about God.
And he goes to Mars Hill, an ancient rock where the educated gather to debate and decide. He talks with them about what he’s seen and what he knows. They listen and question. They are both intrigued and amused. And Paul concludes his remarks there with this challenge.
“God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”
(Acts 17, The Message translation)
Notice that he doesn’t condemn them. He doesn’t call them heretics, or threaten them with hell. He just says y’all didn’t know any better. He might as well be speaking of himself. It hadn’t been that long ago when he didn’t know any better. We can’t be blamed for what we don’t know. Not that blame and blame-avoidance is the question.
No, Paul says now you know. Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus came back, and what you knew, what we all knew before will never be the same. Jesus wants us, all of us, separately and together, as a people, to make a radical life-change. To change ourselves, to change society. To make a Choice.
And we’re working against a deadline. History has direction. It is going, someplace. It isn’t just wandering aimlessly, or going round and round in circles and cycles. Our lives have a direction, too. Whether we direct them or not. Our civilizations and organizations are going someplace, too, though where may not be obvious.
Jesus is the judge of our directions, confirmed for us all to see by returning in resurrection.
We can choose our resurrection, too.