“God is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:27-28).
- In the book of Acts the first followers of Jesus called themselves “the Way”: people of the way of Jesus, the Way who is Jesus. Acts describes several key characteristics of these “people of the Way.”
- As people of the Way we are called to expansive vision: “God is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’” (Acts 17:27-28).
- Christians tend toward one of two extremes in thinking of other religions and spiritual traditions: either condemning all non-Christian religions as false, even evil, in every respect; or approving all religions as equally true and right in every respect.
- The Apostle Paul’s speech in Athens avoids these extremes and presents an alternative. We are to prophetically critique the crass idolatry and empty religiosity of the world wherever it may be found, and to proclaim clearly the truth of Jesus in the gospel. However, we are also to applaud religious devotion in any culture as a sign of honest seeking of God, and to recognize truth and goodness and beauty in any religion or culture as a sign of God’s presence among them.
- In our religiously plural world, we need to continue in Paul’s footsteps, finding a way to hold in tension both the exclusive claims of Jesus and the gospel (e.g. “Jesus is Lord” and “Seek first God’s kingdom”) and the inclusive claims of Jesus and the gospel (e.g. “through Jesus God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things”). We can follow Jesus in steadfast faith and loyal love, while also acknowledging God’s presence and work beyond our horizons.
Questions to Ponder:
- What has been my personal experience with people of other faiths and cultures? Has it been positive, or negative, or a mix of both?
- What elements of truth or beauty or goodness can I see in people of different religious or spiritual traditions, of different cultures?