The Heathen

Often times, we in the western world think of heathen as being those who live in what is deemed “third world countries.”  Their society hasn’t progressed to where ours has.  They have limited resources.  And often times, crime is rampant due to survival instincts. 

For centuries, the Western world has sent missionaries to these people – in an effort to convert them to the Western way of life to include (but not limited to) government, economics, infrastructure, and religion.  Because of the lack of progress – at least in a Westerner’s mind – those they hope to convert are deemed “heathen”.  Synonyms might be uncultured, uneducated, or uncivilized.

But is it fair to deem one a “heathen” just because they don’t believe as I do?  carry an iPhone like mine? or have the luxury of a supermarket down the street?  In other words, maybe we should rethink our idea of what it means to be a heathen.

Paul writes to the Romans, For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things (1:21-23)

Our tendency is to look at the last phrase images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things and conclude Paul is speaking of those uncultured, uneducated, and uncivilized.  He’s not writing to people like me.  That thought is not only arrogant, it’s also completely wrong!  Notice the phrase in verse 21  For although they knew God.  That’s what we so often miss.  Paul is speaking of those who had a relationship with the Creator.  So why would they ever exchange truth for a lie?  The answer is three-fold.  1)  They didn’t honor God or give Him thanks;  2)  They became futile in their thinking; and 3) Their foolish hearts were darkened.  Summary:  Paul says their pride and arrogance was their downfall.

Thought:  It’s easy to recognize God when He comes through.  For example, when a prayer is answered the way I want it answered (and at the right time) or when it rains after a long drought.  But what about when God doesn’t answer prayer my way?  What if the rain comes slower and slower each year?  It’s a little harder to recognize God then.  In fact, often times we blame Him for our circumstances.  And slowly we line up with those whom Paul would describe as being futile in their thinking.  Our hearts will eventually be darkened, meaning the absence of God.  Who is the heathen now?

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2 Responses to “The Heathen”

  1. They “knew” God… and Satan knew God too and he also exchanged the truth for the lie in the very same way. Wow… and yes, the first thing I want to say is “oh, but I’m certainly are not like Satan! HE’S the heathen!” – Shutter – shutter – shutter –! It can’t be sufficient to only know God. Having an intimate relationship with Him is vital.

  2. M-
    It is about knowing God intimately. And it’s also about a continual conscience decision to know God. In other words, just because I knew God at one time in my life doesn’t mean I will always know Him. The last time I checked, discipleship took effort. Thanks for reading!

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