“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 17:23b (NIV).
Ever the opportunist, Paul, previously ‘greatly distressed’ to note the quantity of idols in Athens, clasps a jumping off point in one his famous Acts speeches, this time at the Areopagus.
The Athenians’ ‘unknown god’ was a coverall. ‘With this god we will miss no blessing and receive no undue punishment,’ they thought. An all-encompassing god for their convenience entirely. Spiritual, yes, but for all the wrong reasons. And this defines many people’s spirituality. It’s cart-before-the-horse stuff.
Setting the record straight: God came first; he created us and a need in us to need him; our spiritual need is therefore of him, not to assuage our own discomfort or dis-ease—for the truth is, we don’t know how and without him we will never know.
Why have we got it all the wrong way around?
Perhaps it’s our intelligence and senses and “wisdom” that get in the way. We know we have a need of a god; we only have to look around and see and hear things like, “auras,” “Buddha,” “horoscope,” “crystals,” “affirmations” etc. If not a god, “spirituality.” In other words, ‘Anything but God.’
The yearning is there, oftentimes. Yet, the destination is not found.
The crux of Paul’s message to the Athenians was,
‘Today is the day (i.e. now) to recognise the actual nature of life that God created, living ignorantly no more. In Jesus, and him crucified and raised from the dead, we know that God’s final arrangement for his creation is now in place; the final scenes are now being played out.
‘Therefore, before such a holy and awesome God, bigger than you or I can conceive, and certainly at this time, we should repent for the wrong things we have previously worshipped, in lieu of him—recognising him now as the Creator, and our one and only true, living God.’
Paul reminds us of the basic things and to see life again, simply.
God is not of creation—he is Creation. He cannot be symbolised, he just is. We cannot nail him down by virtue of our intelligence, creation or wisdom. He is worlds beyond any of that, beyond our best understanding.
Before such a God we can only be inspired to once again, or even for the first time, begin to see the majesty of the loving Father—in, through and for all things.
This one and only, living God truly does want the best for us. He loves us with an unimaginable love—a love even we cannot comprehend—the love of a heavenly parent—the perfect parental will but divinely inspired. It’s a love that would require his own Son to die in our place—a love to show but a glimpse of the unfathomable reaches of his love for us.
We are forgiven! And in that there is life for us; life like we have never known, ever. A guilt-free, shame-free existence. Taste, for this is good!
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.