Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Unknown God

I never understood the Greek gods. Their mythology was interesting, yes, but the gods themselves often seemed to embody the worst of human attributes: lust, jealousy, capriciousness, mendacity. Zeus was the least sympathetic. He mostly, it seemed, sported with human beings for his own pleasure, thinking nothing of rape and deceit. The only one I could consistently admire in school was Athena, governing by reason and standing for justice. As for the other gods? Justice seemed a doubtful thing in their dealings with mankind and each other as portrayed in numerous tales.

Why on earth did the Greeks choose such gods? I've wondered. Perhaps they were looking for an explanation of human beings' erratic, unruly, spiteful, belligerent, unfaithful, licentious behavior. But why would they not create stories about gods that inspired men and women to be far better than they found themselves? Not just stories about being strong, conniving, victorious or great in the art of war, or, conversely, stories about our continual defeat and unfortunate proclivities. No. Human beings need stories that inspire and teach us to be kinder, humbler, more selfless, to set our judgement on character, not looks, to be far more faithful and generous, to have courage in the face of evil.

In Chapter 17 of Acts Paul addresses the Athenians. Pointing out their shrine "to an unknown god".he proceeds to tell them who He is - the true God "who gives to everyone life and breath and everything".

This God - in a radical move prompted by unfathomable love - didn't pour his rage out upon us for continual disobedience of his law but sent his only begotten Son to save us by suffering and dying for us, vanquishing sin and death in a final sacrifice as only God-made-man can.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block for Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 

1 Corinthians 1:22-25 (NAB)

He is the Word through whom all things came to be, yet when he came to humanity, he came in the form of a slave, a defenseless baby born to a poor family among animals in a stable. His birth was announced first to lonely shepherds, considered the lowest workers in society. He grew into a man who habitually touched the untouchable, preached to the ostracized, gave grace and respect to those who had no sure place in society such as women and children and blind beggars. He freely associated with sinners and promised redemption if we would repent and follow him, taking hold of his cross just as the woman with the unresolved blood issue reached out and touched his robe in faith that she would be cured.

This God who endured suffering and torment in the flesh? Who experienced pain, hunger, poverty, homelessness, rejection, and loneliness just as humankind does and still conquered evil?

That is the God I want. I want to grow and become like him. Though I find myself bogged down by many of the bad traits depicted so often in Greek mythology, I want to be better, and so this gentle, compassionate, healing, forgiving, humble God - who was crucified and then rose again, taking our human nature to heaven with him as he opened up the way for us - is the One I will follow.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. 

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NAB)

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