I’m in the middle of an educational experience in which I’m leading a tour of people from Texas studying the Adventures of Paul on the Mediterranean Sea. There’s no record that Paul preached in Rhodes, but he did stop here on his way to his final showdown in Jerusalem. Acts 21:1 says, “After we had torn ourselves away from them (the tearful meeting with the Ephesian elders), we put out to sea and sailed straight to Cos. The next day we went to Rhodes and from there to Patara.” Today the main bay is called St. Paul’s Bay even though there is no record that Paul stayed and preached there.
The importance of Rhodes stems from two interesting historical footnotes. First, it was the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. A huge statue, called the Colossus of Rhodes, stood at the entrance to the harbor. Some eyewitnesses claim that the 100-foot statue stood with his two legs spanning the opening to the harbor (it IS a narrow opening). It was said to be so tall that the largest ships of the day would sail under the legs of Colossus. (Other accounts had the colossal statue standing on a pedestal beside the harbor.) The bronze monument was built to honor the sun god Helios and took twelve years to build. It was toppled by an earthquake 227 BC after standing for 56 years. The remains were later moved to Asia Minor where they were eventually lost and probably melted down to make weapons.
The other historical highlight of Rhodes is that it was the last outpost for Christians when the Ottoman Turks were conquering much of that part of the world in the name of Islam. One by one, all the islands fell to the Turks, but a small, brave band of Christian Knights kept Rhodes protected from the Muslim invaders. For years, the Turks enlarged the force besieging the island. The island finally fell and on January 1, 1523, the remaining Knights were offered safe passage. They along with 2000 Christians remaining on the island chose to leave rather than to live under Islam. In the battle for the island, 3000 Christians had been killed, and over 50,000 Muslim warriors had died.
The island is one of the most popular tourist destinations for Europeans because it enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year. Tourists still worship the sun, just without the statue.
I wasn’t surprised by the narrow streets or by the multitude of shops and Greek restaurants, but I have to confess I experienced culture shock when I walked into a main square of the old city and saw three Native Americans performing an ancient song and dance routine. They were dressed in full feathered headdresses, buckskin loin cloths, and their bodies were adorned with war paint. There were two men and a boy of about seven chanting and singing into microphones with a taped accompaniment. Between verses they would perform a war dance (or maybe a rain dance, I’m not an expert). They were actually dancing around patting their open hands to their mouths going, “woo, woo, woo, woo” just like we did when we were kids! After their show, they offered to sell Native American items such as spears, feathered headdresses, and spirit omens.
I thought, “What’s wrong with this picture? Here I am in Greece, and I’m watching something from a black-and-white Cowboy-and-Indian movie!” That kind of activity wouldn’t even be politically correct anymore in America, but I suppose the stories of the American Wild West are still fascinating to people in other countries.
I was reminded again that people around the world often have misconceptions about our country. Some people viewing the show today might actually think there are Native Americans who dress and act like that today. When the truth is that many of our Native Americans are getting the last laugh for being evicted and smile all the way to the bank with their casino profits!
Being exposed to other cultures (even an American subculture in Greece) is a valuable experience for a believer. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for EVERY culture and EVERY nation on the planet. True Christianity is not an American faith, a European faith, or an Asian faith. As the future song to Jesus in heaven resounds, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9)
All roads don’t lead to heaven – only ONE does: Jesus Christ. And that’s the COLLOSAL truth that stands over every person who will ever enter the safe harbor of heaven!