Learning from others takes finding common ground
by Greg Asimakoupoulos
Posted: August 17, 2016
Lessons from a trip to Greece…
Greg Asimakoupoulos is a regular contributor to the Rhymns & Reasons section on SeniorLifestyle. The following ariticle appeared as a guest column in the Neighbor section of the(Chicago suburbs) on August 11, 2016.
I recently traveled to Greece with my wife and daughters. A highlight of the trip was spending a day in Athens walking among the Parthenon and other temple ruins atop the Acropolis.
In addition to the incredible view that vista provides of modern day Athens, the ancient pillars provide a historical perspective of the civilization that gave the world democracy.
Having taken pictures and taken stock of a glorious past, we began our descent down the steep trail toward the bustling Agora. But before reaching the marketplace of shops and restaurants below, I had one further desire. I wanted to stand on Mars Hill ?sometimes called the Areopagus? at the base of the Acropolis.
As a minister and student of the Bible, I was aware that the Apostle Paul stood on this marble perch to defend the Christian faith following his own conversion. In first century Athens, Mars Hill was the place where religion, philosophy and law were debated some 400 feet above the city.
I wanted to stand where Paul stood and see what Paul saw as he made his case for Christ before a pagan and largely skeptical crowd of listeners.
I began my ascent up the dozen or so marble steps that were cut out of the stone hilltop 3,000 years ago. Without thinking of how slippery the well?trafficked stones might be, I lost my footing and fell. Feeling more embarrassment than pain, I picked myself up and proceeded to the top.
From the summit, I looked around and could see the remains of countless altars and temples. Taking my time to focus on Athens' religiously rich past, I recalled Paul's words from Mars Hill. ?See Acts 17:22?31?
Based on what he observed from his vantage point, Paul attested to the fact that the Athenians were a very religious people. He called attention to the numerous temples and shrines he'd seen while touring the city. They included an altar dedicated to "the unknown God."
Using that as a jumping off point, the apostle explained how he had come to discover that the Holy One previously unknown to them did indeed have a name.
I love the way Paul engaged those whose spiritual and cultural backgrounds were distinct from his. He met them where they were. Instead of putting them down, he affirmed their faith journey ?albeit pagan? and then proceeded to offer his own personal perspective.
In other words, he looked for common ground in which to till the soil of understanding and mutual respect with hopes for eventually sowing seeds of truth.
Finding common ground is not a cake walk. Much like my hike up Mars Hill, it can be a slippery slope. It requires exposing yourself to attitudes and ideas that may feel foreign to you.
It means being willing to leave the comfort zone of those with whom you agree and spend time with those who view life and faith differently. It involves listening more than we are accustomed to. It can mean falling on our faces.
Nonetheless, finding common ground is worth the risks and discomfort that are part of the process. In the end it provides a perspective that enables each of us to view diversity and then look to find respectful points of connection.
With the world's most gifted athletes gathered in Brazil, we are provided a picture of just how diverse the people who populate our planet are. The opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics were a beautiful reminder of how we approach a common purpose differently. Each nation brings something of value from which others can learn.
Similarly, each person in our sphere of influence has something with which to inform our view of life, faith and truth. And we have something to contribute to their understanding. But first we must understand where others are coming from.
Greg Asimakoupoulos (pronounced AWESOME-uh-COPE-uh-less) is an ordained minister, published author and a freelance news reporter with the Salem Radio Network. Greg maintains a weekly column called Rhymes and Reasons on The Partial Observer, which he graciously provides to SeniorLifestyle.
Greg's writings have now been assembled in book form. Find out more.
* For web-based email, you may need to copy and paste the address yourself.