Acts 17:16-24

Today’s devotion was written by Mark Crain.

“What is our choice?”

Paul enters the challenging intellectual community of Athens, a center of popular culture and higher education.  In today’s reading, two groups are intrigued by Paul’s discussions about Jesus and the resurrection.  They question Paul’s message, calling him a “babbler” and say he is an advocate for “foreign gods”. They are curious about the strange ideas he is bringing into their city.  Paul is invited to a meeting of the Areopagus – the “official” forum overseeing religion and education in Athens – to explain his ideas. 

The “new” things Paul shares stand in contrast to the disturbing array of mythological gods he witnessed upon his arrival.  He boldly pronounces, “God, who made the world and everything in it, is Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in temples made with human hands. Nor is God served by human hands, as though he needed something, since he is the one who gives life, breath, and everything else…. God isn’t far away from any of us.  In God we live, move and exist.”  (v. 24-25, 27-28 CEB)

I expect some of the Athenian thinkers were startled by the notion that they might need God more than God might need them.  For all their worldly culture and “wisdom”, these Greeks did not see the Spirit of God as a meaningful gift in their lives.  They were comfortable depending on themselves, or their temple idols, to achieve lives of peaceful pleasure (Epicurean) and self-sufficiency (Stoic).  Upon hearing Paul’s explanation, some could not believe in a resurrection and “ridiculed” his beliefs.  Others were still curious and would wait to hear more.  Some who heard, joined Paul, came to believe in Jesus, and were saved.

We, like they, now live with a choice.  We can create virtual realities, alternative truths, and material idols to foster and support only what we see, want, and understand.  We can be proud of our clever selves, and fashion God in reasonable and comfortable ways.  We can even establish religious and educational systems to sift and define credible “official” beliefs.  We can certainly ridicule others for “new” ideas and faith in things unseen.  Or, we can believe, somehow, God gives us what we need to love and support one another.  We can humbly change the current failures of our human prescriptions and institutions, and persist in dedicating them to universal goodness.  We can even admit to a very limited perspective without surrendering personal dignity, or stealing it from others.  We can boldly acknowledge the sovereignty of God in our present futures.  We can certainly choose to live closely with the unseen Holy Spirit who moves in mysterious ways beyond our understanding.

How do I respond when introduced to a new, intriguing, or confounding idea?

In a typical day, how do I choose to do to affirm the good things going on around me? 

What can I do to acknowledge the closeness of the Holy Spirit in my life and the sovereignty of God in my present future? 

What are your thoughts, comments, questions?

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