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His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel
their way toward Him and find Him—though He is not far from any
one of us. For in Him we live and move and exist (vv.27-28).
Atorii is a traditional Japanese gate typically painted
brilliant red and found at the entrance of Shinto
shrines and Japanese Buddhist temples devoted
to particular gods. Adherents to those religions believe it
marks the point where one leaves the secular world and
enters the holy. A large and famous torii stands off the
shore of Miyajima Island in the Hiroshima Prefecture of
Japan. Visitors are informed it’s “sacred” space.
Sacred sites are common in most religions. Hindus
trek to Varanasi, located on the banks of the Ganges
River; neopagans make their pilgrimage to Stonehenge.
A sacred space is where a god or spiritual power is
thought to be unusually present.
To the Greeks of Athens, the apostle Paul stood on
sacred ground as he spoke to them on the Areopagus
(Mars Hill). With its links to the gods Mars and Ares,
the hill also stands a stone’s throw away from the
Parthenon—the temple of the goddess Athena. Among a
plethora of gods, Paul had seized an opportunity to talk
about another “unknown” God (Acts 17:23).
This God, Paul explained, was Creator and Lord of
the whole world—rather than parts of it, like the Greek
gods (v.24). Greece’s gods had limited powers, but this
God controlled the destiny of each individual on the
planet (vv.25-26). Greece’s gods had limited spheres of
influence, but this God was literally everywhere (v.27).
Paul’s message is important for all believers in Jesus, for we have our own
version of sacred space: the church sanctuary. We “meet” God there on Sunday
morning and then head into the “secular” world on Monday. But if the one true
God is present everywhere, then everywhere is sacred space.
And that makes your workplace, campus, and home a place of worship too.
There’s nothing wrong
with having a special
place where you like to
pray. But, in your mind,
what’s the difference
between such a place
and a Japanese shrine?
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