Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

1 Corinthians 15:33

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Acts 17:28

One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”

Titus 1:12

Paul was a cultured individual; he made a point of understanding the world that his audience lived in. In the current decade, among the deceptively harmonious streams of “trust the experts” and anti-intellectualism, the Christian may find our raft pulled along by those currents into the maelstrom of misanthropy. “People are generally stupid,” the world says, “and are not worthy to handle their own outcomes. A firm hand is needed for the world to really be prosperous and at peace.”

One of my favorite musicals calls mankind a “handy candidate for Hell” but is that truly the message of the Gospel? Certainly we all need grace but grace is freely given and must be thus freely accepted. The Gospel, at its core, is not a gloating condemnation of a basket of deplorables nor is it a nostalgia-drunk rant, sneering at senseless sheep so soon slaughtered.

No indeed, the message is God is faithful. He has faith that people can decide to accept his gift. He actually trusts human beings with the decision to do the right thing! What ought to be the message of the Christian, then? Who can we find who is excluded from God’s invitation? God chooses those who choose. He has offered an invitation and shown his belief that people are capable of deciding. Do we believe the same thing?

That is why Paul was willing to speak from the wisdom and words of the people to whom he was appointed as a minister. He was not an alien presence, descending into their world, unfamiliar and willfully ignorant. He was a human being, a friend, a brother from a family who wanted to adopt the lost. He built relationships with people, not as a “friend of the World” but certainly as a friend to those lost in it.

Ethan Kirl