Since the fall in paradise we have been a species obsessed with differences rather than similarities, a people bent on drawing lines. We have classes for our classes, groups for our groups. We have upper class, upper-middle class, middle class, lower middle class, etc. How quickly we try to elevate ourselves above anothers. “I’m not lower class, I’m upper-lower class.” We have black churches, white churches, contemporary churches, traditional churches, and the list goes on. We live in a society where what you drive, wear, neighborhood in which you live, is more of a statues symbol than your character. People size you up without even talking to you. Since the introduction of sin into the world we have been a people obsessed with differences. However, the Bible reveals a God who does the opposite. Why do we constantly try to elevate ourselves above others, when the bible shows us a God that humbled himself to serve others? Someone who according to 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The problem: It goes back to the very beginning. Sin brought segregation…separation. Adam and Eve sinned and immediately they separated themselves from God and each other. And the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden, (Genesis 3:8 ESV).
The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12 ESV). Even the disciples constantly argued about who would be the greatest in Christ’s kingdom…at least until they found out what it meant to be the greatest.
The separation intensified at Babel. Before the incident at babel Genesis 11:1 (ESV) says Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. According to commentators “Whole world” renders the Hebrew “all the earth” (kol hāʾāreṣ), meaning the inhabitants of the earth collectively, (1). This verse literally means there was one dialect, vocabulary, pronunciation. Today it’s hard to imagine a time when everybody, not only spoke the same language, but even pronounced their words the same. Just in our country alone, depending on where you’re from, our slang, lingo, pronunciation varies. In some parts of the country we say: “you guys” in other parts “you’uns” and in the part of the country I live in we say: “you’all.” But before babel everyone said “you guys,” (i’m partial…it’s what I say). “So what?” you might ask. It’s significant. Think about how isolated you feel when you’re in a place that speaks a different language than you. Speaking the same language and having the same pronunciation does more than just make it easier for us to understand each other. It promotes unity of thought and action. In babel that all changed.
Sin brought the unravelling of community through the avenue of separation. A trick packaged different ways down through history…but a trick we keep falling for. It wasn’t God’s original plan to confuse their languages either. The descendants of Noah, united by the strong bond of a common language, (good thing) had not separated, and notwithstanding the divine command to replenish the earth, were unwilling to separate, (bad thing), (2) Fallen humanity did what fallen humanity loves to do, it believed it knew better than God. They built a tower. They wanted to be their own saviors. They had become unified in opposition against God…so God confused their language.
We have our modern-day towers of babel. Gated communities that keep the world out and us safe. Some churches have become citadels of tradition, where only people who talk like us, act like us, worship like us are welcomed in. But the church should be a catalyst for change, not a citadel of tradition. We mustn’t confuse uniformity with unity. The church is in trouble when it lays out lines. Because with lines always comes the attitude that people from the other line don’t belong behind our line. When the gospel reveals there is only one line. On one side you have those who have sinned and on the other you have those who have not sinned. So if the bible says all have sinned…we’re all on the same side. When Jesus said “I haven’t come to bring peace, but a sword” It was not to divide us, but to cut diametrically across the lines we use to divide us.
Which brings us to the solution. 1 Corinthians 1:27–31 (ESV) says: But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, So that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
The reality is no one has the right to separate themselves from anyone else. Why? Our common problem demands a common solution. The Gospel is the great equalizer. It says the poor man is rich and the rich man is poor, the weak man is strong and the strong man is weak. If Jesus, stepped across the only real line ever to exist, the chasm created by our sin, and saved us even when we told Him we didn’t want to be saved. We should be willing to cross the lines the world has erected to labor for the salvation of others. Because He was for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Heb.2:9). It was the devil that wanted to ascend above the heights of God’s throne, but Jesus stepped down from His…to save you. If the church is going to finish the work, the church is going to have to start stepping across lines.
(1) Mathews, K. A. (1996). Vol. 1A: Genesis 1-11:26. The New American Commentary (477). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
(2) Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Ge 11:1). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
Copyright 2012 Richie Halversen