‘While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols’ (Ac 17:16)
Today, my husband, Pastor Richmond Leigh, our daughter, Alina and I, went to see the ruins of the ancient city of Athens. This area has been inhabited since 4000 BC, making it the oldest capital in Europe. About 500 BC, Athens became the ‘golden city’. It became the leading naval city of the day, the bastion of democracy and the centre of cultural and intellectual activity of the times. It produced the greatest poets, writers, philosophers and thinkers of men. Later, Athens fell under the Roman empire. The rich Romans came to study in the universities of Athens. The Greek education was the pride of all scholars.
Apostle Paul said that ‘Geeks seek for wisdom…’ (1Cor 1:22). They considered Christianity as foolishness. The rising of Christianity was the downfall of the city’s famous schools. They are now all in ruins. Interestingly, the Bible authors used the Greek language to write the New Testament.
We went to the high hill in Athens to see the ruins of the Acropolis, the theater where they played the famous Greek dramas, the temples dedicated to the goddess Athena and to the other gods. I saw an ancient canon in a stony box lying there. It was broken in pieces. I also saw some doves resting near it. To me it was a prophetic sign that the Greek proud gods fought their foolish fight but lost it. The Prince of Peace is King overall. Apostle Paul said it well: ‘the wisdom of the world is foolishness to God’. God said: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise! I will frustrate the intelligence of the intelligent’ (1Cor 1:19). In Athens today I saw a lot of destruction and frustration of what is called worldly wisdom!
We went to the very place where Apostle Paul argued with the educated Athenians. It is called Areopagus. The truth is that it was not easy for Paul to go to this missionary trip to Athens. In fact, it was the hardest trip of all. He had to go alone, leaving Silas and Timothy behind in Macedonia. He was provoked in his spirit by the many idols and gods worshipped in great temples. He argued with the educated religious pagan men who looked down on Christians. Paul stood and fearlessly told them about the God they called ‘the Unknown God’. He said that he knows this ‘unknown God’. Can you imagine Paul’s boldness? Some believed and some mocked, but the Gospel’s seed had been planted on this beautiful but spiritually dry land.
There are many churches now but few people attend them. Most of them are museums. You pay a fee to enter and see past glories. Greece is struggling with economic recession. Many beautiful houses have the ‘For sale’ sign on them. Many Greeks have abandoned their home land and have gone abroad to ‘greener pastures’. There are also illegal immigrants here trying to survive. We saw a number of Nigerians selling little gifts. They were speaking ‘pigging English’ among themselves, arguing about some money. One came to me asking me: ‘hey, lady! Do you want to come to a party this evening?’ I did not answer him. I felt sorry for him… He was the age of my son… In Nigeria he would have respectfully called me ‘Mama’ but here I am ‘Lady’. I almost shouted on him, rebuking him saying: ‘You no get mama? You no get Papa? You miss road my son…’ But the heat was too much to exercise my Naija language on him. I passed by leaving him behind to search for things money can buy. It was his dream to live in Athens, in the shadow of ruins that failed the best of men. My dream is to go back to Nigeria, to serve the King of kings and that my dream, money can never buy it!
What are the lessons in all these things? Pride and idolatrous worship trouble any land, no matter how famous, rich or educated its citizens may be. If you are a ‘big man’ or ‘small man’, humble yourself and give your life to Christ! It is only in Christ alone that there is peace and fulfillment in this life and hope of glory in the next! If you are saved, if Christ lives in you, then you are wiser than the wisest and richer than the richest. Serve the Lord Jesus Christ wherever you are right now! Child of God, be encouraged today! Jesus is Lord!