04 September 2014
Damaris: Foreign God
What is this message that you bring,
what is this "good news" that you preach?
Who is this strange God from afar -
and what should it matter to me?
We are Greeks - we have our gods,
more gods than you.
What's a foreign god to me?
Your story's nice -
but what's it to me?
But you say
was always there,
even when I did not see Him.
has always cared
for all the world
even though we did not know Him -
for this God
is the creator
and all mankind is His -
is the sustainer,
who provides for all that is.
This is no foreign God
but the one true God of all -
and that's why it matters to me.
is the one who made me.
is the one who knew me
before I even knew myself.
cares not only for one people -
for all the peoples on earth are His.
In Him we live,
in Him we move,
in Him we have our being -
is the true God
Damaris was one of the people who came to faith in Athens after Paul preached there.
Reading Acts I've been noticing how the Apostles often emphasised the fact that their message was not a strange new message, but a continuation and fulfillment of the first covenant with Israel, and a message relevant also for non-Jews because God is the true God of the whole world. When speaking to non-Jews, Paul would speak especially of God as creator: because God created everything and everybody, and still keeps on sustaining and providing for the whole world, His message is relevant for everybody.
Today, there are still many cultures in which the principle "to be (x nationality) means to be (x religion)", and that often makes it hard to reach them with the Gospel, partly because they believe that makes Jesus irrelevant to them ("it's a foreign religion"), and partly because it leads to difficulty for anyone who decides to be a Christian (they get treated like a traitor not only of their religion, but of their culture, tradition and family). So I see the relevance of Paul's method for today.
In Athens, the philosophers thought Paul was bringing them a foreign God and was bringing them something new and strange. What Paul did in his sermon, though, was point out that God is not a foreign God, but, as the creator, is everybody's God. He is not tied to one nation, but the God of all people, because all people - being created by Him - belong to Him already.
Picture by Raphael. Note the lady in the far right corner.