24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
This is a portion of Paul’s speech in Athens, as he seeks to explain Jesus to the philosophers there. They had numerous altars for worship, and among them, one to an unknown God. The people Paul talked to did not know God.
The work Paul had in front of him is not unlike the task before us in trying to explain Jesus to those who have not grown up knowing God. Even worse, we may encounter those who are not simply neutral, but instead are openly antagonistic to the Christian faith. Paul did not judge them for having different beliefs; he sought to find a connection to help bridge the gap. That was the altar to the “unknown god” that he commended them for having.
Paul exhibited sensitivity towards his audience, and some of them came to faith. He tried to explain God in ways that would encourage others to want to seek God. We want to believe that we live with purpose and direction. We want to be grounded in a faith that works, and trust that as we seek God, God is close by.
We pray to grow in sensitivity to those around us who may hunger for what God can give them in Jesus Christ.
Lord God, we pray for those who do not know you, or who are lost or floundering with no strong foundation in faith. We pray for those who have been hurt by the church, or have found reasons to turn away from you. Help us listen with spiritual ears to care for those in need. This we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.