Reading: Acts 17: 22-31
Verse 25: “He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else”.
As Paul begins to evangelize in Athens he wants to establish the differences between the idols the Athenians call “gods” and the one true God. Paul begins with the physical. He tells them that God was the creator of all things and is the giver of life. In verse 25 Paul writes, “He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else”. God gives to us because he loves us. By contrast, the Athenians see idols as beings that need things – humans are the givers. They must go to the temple that the idol dwells in and offer gifts or sacrifices to please that god or to curry favor with it. Because God is the creator of all things and because God is the giver of all life, God is not found in just one place. God is everywhere. There are some distinct differences between God and idols.
God is also the architect. God planned and ordained all things. From the spread of humanity to its final judgment day, God has it all under his control. Because of this, Paul reminds them that humanity naturally seeks out the one who controls all things. At times we all have this sense of an all-powerful being or force. For those in the line of Abraham, we recognize God as this being. Because of that we do reach out and find him, as Paul says. We come to know God and then to know him better through the incarnation, through Jesus. In Jesus we see God’s embodiment lived out. Primarily that comes as love. We see it lived out in lots of ways: restoration, healing, forgiveness, sacrifice, grace, mercy, compassion…
Just as it was in his day, people continue to struggle to connect to Jesus. Often it is because they do not understand love. In the Athenian culture the idols were a focus of love. But these images of gold or silver or stone that were “images made by man’s design and skill” were incapable of love. Today some love similar things. We call them cars and cell phones and houses and such. Some say, “If you love me, you’ll…” They think love is something you can control and manipulate and buy.
Unconditional love, the love we find in Jesus, is not at all like that. It is freely given with no strings attached. It is offered without requirements or prerequisites. It considers others long before self. Unconditional love does not seek to trap or possess or control. It is giving and humble and generous. As children of God, as his offspring, as followers of Jesus, may we live for this love. May it fill us and flow out from us, into the world.
Prayer: Loving God, help me to find myself in you today. May love be my lead and my guide this day. Amen.