Occasionally, I have been asked to participate in a memorial service for a deceased friend or loved one. On such an event, anyone would want to share thoughts which are uplifting and inspirational. The service is both an opportunity and a responsibility to be helpful and respectful. Speakers at funerals innately recognize the importance of a carefully worded message.
For me personally, the story of Acts 17 always serves as the message to share. In that event, Paul addresses himself to Athenian philosophers who sought after the divine by conducting worship for multiple gods, including any that might be “unknown” to them. Taking note of this devotion, Paul proceeded to introduce them to a God who is the Father of All, even these pagan Greeks. In this discourse Paul dismisses the very idea of worship as practiced in the many religions, saying emphatically that God is not confined to manmade structures or honored by rituals. In the process of declaiming sacred buildings and acts of worship, Paul is emphatic is saying that God doesn’t need anything from men, which includes their very attention and obedience. That is because He is the source and power behind everything, so how could He be needful. The religious implications of these statements are mindboggling for those steeped in any institutional religion, including Christianity.
Paul summarizes and concludes his discourse by stating that all men are the children of God. That includes male and female, Jew and Greek, bond and free, even Scythians who were considered barbarians by the Greeks. Paul’s the Universalist of his day. Even the Greek poets wrote about this universal God identity that Paul confirmed.
To my mind there is nothing more uplifting than to embrace the brotherhood of all mankind under the concept of absolute equality before God. While this puts me in union with the vilest of sinners, it also elevates me to stature of the greatest saints. Though I am humbled to be equated with some I may not admire, I am concurrently exalted by having a sure God connection or relationship. As a child of God, I am inherently and irrevocably a part of the family of God.
Nothing in the realm of religion or philosophy could ever be more impactful than what Paul proclaimed there in Athens that day. Absolute, universal equality before God. The vanity of religious ritualism. The ever present nearness of God to all men. So much of what Paul said in other writings, holds the attention of the church and defines Christian Orthodoxy, but Acts 17 stands in marked contrast to that conventional religious wisdom. Divinely endowed equality is the only revolutionary concept that qualifies as the basis for all things made new, peace on earth, and a plan and purpose devised by divine love.