Distress is not a bad thing when it happens because you are confronted by people without hope. For those of us moving in the area of missions and Christian witness this is a common expression – distressed for those who do not know Jesus for reality is not without hope.
As followers of Christ we are fully aware that life is held by God – it is also a life where we find ourselves finding our life and our being in Him and by Him. Life is about the fruit of the Spirit in full display as we live out our faith as devoted disciples of Jesus and not in things that do not matter. Since Jesus is the source of our being that enables to be agents of peace and hope to a hurting world, and since we have experienced the love of God and the good news of eternal life, grace and forgiveness, we have much to offer our world of hurt.
When Paul was so deeply distressed when he met a people group who had no idea who God was, maybe Paul was giving us an attitude that modelled somewhat how we need to approach our culture today. Maybe hidden in this is a biblical perspective of culture that we can use to navigate ourselves through it and what our objective should be as we approach our world. Confronting culture starts by engaging culture. Their is neither a blending in because with that we cannot challenge it and we cannot run away and hide for with that we lose hope of changing culture.
Paul did not normally use this approach – sharing his hope in Jesus. Normally he would use an apologetic approach. I like this approach much better – it is definitely a more engaging approach and as a result there were invitations to speak more and to more people.
When we ask the world about their experience of looking for God’s presence and how others have looked for it, we know that we all are looking for that hope that will enable us to face the realities of this world. Imagine what that conversation looks and sounds like at a funeral and then a wedding or a birth of a child. What does God look like – His love, mercy, or truth in the lives of those who sit next to us, talk to us, join us in worship – by listening we find the language to speak of Jesus – crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection.
While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply distressed to see that the city was full of idols. – Acts 17:16