Meet Them Where They Are
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37-38 NKJV) 

In this passage, Jesus is attending the annual Feast of Tabernacles celebration in Jerusalem, one of the annual religious festivals listed in the Book of Leviticus as a time to celebrate and worship before God. Scholars tell us that in Jesusí day, part of the festival celebration was a water ceremony, where the priest would take water from the spring-fed pool of Siloam and would pour the water on the altar. 

Clearly, Jesus was using this ceremony as a reference point for his teaching, but it is odd that this water ceremony is no where enjoined in the Old Testament. In spite of that, Jesus used it to teach a profound spiritual truth. Throughout the New Testament we find the great teachers and evangelists using the cultural milieu of the day to illustrate, instruct, and to pique curiosity. From Jesusí use of the water ceremony to Paulís teaching at Athensís Areopagus, they were able to spread the gospel without the aid of PowerPoint or music videos, and, may I add, were quite successful at it. 

Paul himself said, ďTo the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.Ē (I Corinthians 9:20-23 NIV) 

To make it work, Paul had to be thoroughly educated in the cultures in which he was working. Not only was he thoroughly steeped in the ways of the Jews, he was profoundly aware of the Greco-Roman world in which he lived. That enabled him, when he reasoned with the philosophers of Athens, to approach the big questions of life from a perspective they could understand, referring to the Unknown God that even their own poets and philosophers acknowledged, but did not know (Acts 17:16-34). 

The point is, Christians above all people should be in touch with the culture of the day. Preachers of the gospel and believers in the way should be the most educated of all people in order to understand the worldview of those whom we hope to reach. Even the highly educated philosophers in Athens longed for a knowledge of the Unknown God, and if Paul had not understood their need and how to address that need, he could not have piqued their interest and held their attention, even quoting their own literature to them to support his arguments. (Acts 17:28) 

For too long some have characterized believers as uneducated, gullible, out of touch ideologues, but the Christianity of the Bible is eminently rational and relevant to the modern world. Being educated and devout are not mutually exclusive. An apostle named Paul was proof of that. 

Lenny Cacchio 

Excerpted from The Sabbath Morning Companion, September 15, 2006 by Lenny Cacchio. All rights reserved.