Passages - Week 3: The Builder

Common Ground

Day 3

“For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”Acts 17:23

As you enter into the spiritual journey of others, you will encounter obstacles. Don’t be surprised. Paul did as well. When Paul encountered a group of philosophers in Athens who challenged and disputed him, he didn’t give up (Acts 17:18). Rather, he looked for common ground. It may not have been obvious at first in this “city full of idols” (17:16). But he could identify with their religious inclinations (17:22) and their awareness that there was more than they knew (17:23). He identified their “unknown God” who he then proclaimed to them as the one true Creator who raised Jesus from the dead. The result— some sneered, others listened and a few became followers (17:32-34). The responses that Paul received are common to what we see today.

Effective bridge builders look for common ground in the midst of differences of outlook and belief. They don’t compromise their own beliefs. Rather, they use the common ground as a starting place to build toward Jesus.


There is always common ground if we will take time to look.

Take a Step

The next time you are in a discussion with someone who believes differently, look for the common ground. Start with what you agree on and build to Jesus. 

Share a story of a time where you found common ground with someone you didn’t expect.


Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

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