By Bill MacLeod, Executive Director
Recently my wife and I had the privilege of spending time near the ancient cities of Athens and Corinth among workers serving in some of the hardest places for the gospel throughout Asia. Two individuals had run a bookstore selling Christian literature for many years in a major city but suddenly had to shut it down, fearing for their lives, because of those who fanatically oppose followers of Jesus. Another couple had put a banner up in the market place of their town announcing their new church-plant, and welcoming all in the town to attend, only to have it torn down by a mob that hated anything to do with Jesus.
When the Apostle Paul visited Athens in Acts 17, he wondered how he could address such a pagan culture, until he saw an inscription on one altar that read: “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” which the Greeks had erected to whatever god they might have inadvertently left out of their pantheon. Paul masterfully seizes the occasion to share the one true God.
Paul never returned, yet, twenty-five centuries later the pagan deities and structures are magnificent rubble, and, at the base of Mars Hill where Paul spoke, is a bronze plaque in Greek recording Paul’s entire appeal. On the storied columns of the Parthenon, a guide points out an ancient Cross that followers of Jesus in the first century etched in the marble – still faintly visible today.
In the depraved port city of Corinth where 400,000 inhabitants lived during Paul’s day, he founded a church that had more problems than any of the other NT churches of its day. Yet, today, amid the ruins, is a perfectly preserved Cross carefully cut into the stone, bearing indisputable testimony to the followers of Jesus who had formed that first century church.
Reflecting upon his tent-making days in that city, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:12: For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands…
Whether the buildings that once stood, or the human bodies that inhabited them – all have been destroyed. The Christian bookstore run by my friends may never open again, and its writings may never again be read. The church with the banner in the square may have to go underground or may cease to exist.
Yet here we have this graffiti from antiquity to remind us that no matter how insignificant you may feel…Jesus is leaving His fingerprints through you, on those whom you have touched for Christ …because the ink He writes with is the only indelible substance that is able to survive for eternity.