In a recent Sunday school lesson, we were studying the passage in John 1:51 about "the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." This is a reference to Jacob's dream in Genesis 28:10-17, but for me it also brought to mind two other references, admittedly from far less divine sources. My mind strayed back to two rock songs I've heard many times, Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven and Jacob's Ladder by Rush.
For those of you who have listened to either song, you know the lyrics have nothing to do with the biblical accounts from Genesis or John. However, at least their titles seem to have been inspired by the biblical story. Perhaps for these secular song writers, the idea of a ladder reaching to Heaven at least sounded like an interesting thought to ponder, a poetic image to craft into a song title. There are many other familiar references in our pop culture which originated in the stories and teaching of the Bible. But how does this apply to us Christians who (we're told) aren't even supposed to know any Led Zeppelin or Rush songs?
If the apostle Paul is any example to us, these cultural references can be a natural launching point to witness to unbelievers, who are steeped in the world's culture without even knowing that much of it originates in the Bible. In Acts 17:22-33, we have the account of Paul preaching in the Areopagus to the people of Athens. He starts his discourse with a reference to a local altar to an "unknown god." He then cites the words of three Greek poets and uses these references to teach about the one true God who created us and lives in us. It didn't even matter that the Greek poets Paul quoted were writing their words of praise to the false god Zeus. Paul was able to start where his audience was, with familiar references from their own culture, to begin a conversation that led them to the Truth.
When we Christians witness to unbelievers who may have never read the Bible, have seldom set foot in a church, and are certainly not familiar with the all the churchy lingo we love to use, why don't we follow Paul's example and start with what the people already know. There are many reference from secular songs, movies, books, and works of art which can easily lead to a question or comment about a biblical truth. And if the apostle Paul could be well versed with the pagan Greek and Roman culture for the sake of reaching his world, then let's not be too judgemental on those of us who know a few rock songs and have seen more than rated-G Disney movies.
Why not ask a friend next time you're 'getting the Led out' what they think a stairway to Heaven could mean, and show them how Christ, the Son of Man, is that path to Heaven. Next time you're listening to that oldies station with your co-worker or family member and the Byrd's song Turn Turn Turn comes on, ask them if they know the lyrics came straight from Ecclesiastes 3 and maybe open it up with them to study the futility of their "life under the sun" as compared to a life with God. Or the next time you watch one of the countless action movies with the sacrificing hero dying dramatically with outstretched arms (Platoon, Braveheart, Gladiator, etc.), turn the dinner discussion after the movie to how the one true Savior really did die for us and how he suffered even more on our behalf.