“While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was deeply troubled by all the idols he saw everywhere in the city. He went to the synagogue to reason with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and he spoke daily in the public square to all who happened to be there…So Paul, standing before the council, addressed them as follows: “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: ‘To an Unknown God.’ This God, whom you worship without knowing, is the one I’m telling you about.” Acts 17:16-17; 22-23 (NLT)
This story of Paul and His heart for the those who don’t know Jesus is very similar to an account in the gospel of Matthew. In Matthew 9:36, describing Jesus's heart for the hurting and those who didn't know Him, it says, “When He saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” As Paul visited Athens, a very prosperous city, he was moved and deeply troubled. Something stirred inside of him as he saw the hopelessness and hurt of people. He noticed that people will create and worship (hope in; live for) almost anything in order to give meaning to their lives and to cope with the hardships of this world. We know Paul was truly stirred, because instead of just pitying them and saying, “how sad,”; he actually did something about it. He began to engage their hopelessness with the Truth of God and the Good News of His Son, Jesus Christ. Pity doesn’t stir our hearts to action, compassion does. And compassion is what stirred and moved Jesus to action. Pity says, “to bad for them,” and, "I’m glad I'm not them.” Compassion says, “I hurt for them, and Jesus has called me to help (do something to alleviate their hurt and reinforce their value, as someone made in God’s image). Today, like Paul, ask Jesus to make His heart for the lost and hurting real in your own. Remember, He didn’t ask you to change the world, only those He has placed in yours. Ask Him to give you the courage to engage and move in to their hurt with His love and with His message of hope. You will be surprised by what He shows you and how your heart is stirred. Who, close to you, is worshiping the hopeless and useless idols of this world? Be stirred!