When God scattered men like seeds riding the wind, with mixed tongues and confused speech, He always meant for the corners of the world to inhabit praise.
He always meant for His name to go far and wide.
I imagine the tower of Babel, the hands of men making their way to the heavens by sheer will and determination and no small measure of pride. The arrogance to stay huddled and similar when all along God commands us to reach further than we’re comfortable. Genesis 11:1 says, “Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.” But God dispersed them with tangled tongues.
Still, we find each other. The ones who are the same. The ones with the same stories, the same language, the same look. The ones who will help us build our kingdom just the way we like it.
Some days, I look at the church and wonder if we’re not attempting to build towers of Babel once more — to align our speech and thoughts and works to try to reach our own heaven, to make a mighty name for ourselves. We often speak in like tongues, but it clangs against the speech of God.
We confuse unity and peace with uniformity and passivity. We stay clustered and similar, familiar, and unchallenged.
We offer up words like colorblindness as a solution to the hard work of diversity. We mean well.
We say everything is a sin issue but refuse to name the sin racism. We don’t want to get our palates dirty on ugly words while some among us choke and cry out, “I can’t breathe.” When will those lives matter to us? When will Black lives matter to us?
Some of us refuse to admit that all things are not equal. Racism, racial profiling, ethnic cleansing, genocide, the systemic oppression of so many people God created in His image. The roots of hate and pride and the narrowing of tongues to define what we exalt and what we justify like stacked bricks to Babel. The sameness of the stories we tell stifles us all, the witness to God’s church soiled and skewed.
We were made for more.
We often fail to see that diversity often means disparity, a large gap between how one is seen and how one is treated. But diversity was God’s initiative, His creative manifesto to paint humanity with vibrancy, color, and timbre. To make each freckle and speck of color in the iris, to coil hair in wiry locks, or lay them smooth like strawberry grain, to soak our skins in a thousand colors and draw them over the bodies of his men and women. The created ones who hold infinite value and the cost of the cross in their souls.
He chose to form languages that click and hum and roll off tongues or rattle in the throat like the hum of a bumblebee, to make words that purr and sing in a prism of different notes.
He stretched out His hand and formed the body, the heart, and the mind.
He placed us in time, in place, in culture. He knew only a body of many different parts would ever be able to reflect His glory.
He called us His bride, His beloved. He named us the church. But we’re failing our parts. Our body is sick. We walk a disjointed, hobbled step when we lurch toward unity and peace without including the need for diversity and justice. There are broken and hurting among us. When will we listen?
We are incarnational beings. We are not disembodied souls roaming the land. Our skin color, our race, our ethnicity, our language, our history matters to God. We cannot be blind to what He has created and purposed for His glory.
I’ve wept hot angry tears at the carnage seen when we forget that we belong to each other. I’ve lamented the pain we cause when we say those people instead of us. The pain and anguish and suffering in this world isn’t just ours to behold but is our burden to bear when we love like Christ.
To love like Christ, we must choose to see each other, to rest our soul among another’s and say I’ll walk with you. I’ll have your back. I’ll fight for you and cry with you and pray for you. I’ll ask forgiveness and I’ll offer it. I’ll answer hard questions, I’ll ask them of myself, I’ll learn, and be teachable. I’ll humble myself to seek and see and not just assume. I’ll sit in lament and rise up in praise. I’ll be with you and for you.
You belong to me and I belong to you because I choose the hard way, the path of Christ.
We must proclaim, I am the church at Pentecost, speaking with a unified tongue, not because we all come speaking the same language but because we are all called by the Spirit of God to a singular purpose. We were created to inhabit the presence of God. Not only God with us, but God in us. Because God in us makes us one.
We are the dwelling place for diversity, the reflection of God in unified form.
We belong to each other. We belong to Christ.
To love like Christ, we must choose to see each other, to rest our soul among another’s and say I’ll walk with you. - @AliaJoyH: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I do believe that fear and ignorance breed hatred. We fear what we don’t know. I admit having a wariness about people from the Middle East. One might even say I was prejudiced because I didn’t know. God has a way of uniting people. Now, having worked closely with my brothers and sisters from the Pakistani culture for several years, I appreciate the differences and celebrate the commonalities. We could use a big dose of how they treat their elders and parents with utmost respect and dignity. My best friends growing up were of the Jewish faith. How could someone have such hatred toward a group of people that God has named as his own people? One of my best friends can tie her ancestry back to slave roots not far from where she lives. Somethings have changed, but she still has to coach her law abiding sons on what to do, and what not to do because the color of a person’s skin still matters a lot especially in the South. It would be so boring if we were all exactly alike. My life is made richer by trying to walk a mile in another man’s shoes and to dare to get to know her culture and heritage. I like your call for us to truly “SEE” each other. Truly seeing takes time, effort, talking, listening, studying, walking alongside. Joining with you in truly seeing those around me.
Becky Keife says
I appreciate your words this morning, Bev. xx
Alia Joy says
Thanks for your honesty. Yes, you’re so right. We often fear what we don’t know, experience, or understand, which makes it all the more essential to get to know others, believe their experiences, and seek to understand not only our differences but our commonalities.
Michele Morin says
So thankful for this friendly gathering place, a path where our feet land with joy and where it’s clear that we CAN walk together. Thank you, Alia, for your part in making it that way.
Being brought up on a farm in central Illinois, I was given a shock of reality when I went out into the world. I was shocked at the way others acted towards one another. I had been taught by my lovely mother to be kind to everyone! That we were all Gods children and were the same. I am now 69 years old and I still try to treat everyone the same. I often get laughed at and have people tell me I am a Polly Anna.
I don’t care, if they care to listen I tell them I try to see them as Jesus does and everyone is a Picasso, individually hand made by God Himself! Each person is Writing the story of his life as he goes along. God started it, God will finish it! It’s up to us to chose Him and make the best of the rest of it. I hope we will choose well! Let’s pray for us all! I pray we would all see one another through His eyes!
I dearly love this where we get together, love you all ,
Beth Williams says
Amen! This world is so full of hatred. A lot of that is brought on by bigotry & ignorance. I used to work at a university. We had a lot of Muslim/Middle Eastern & Asian students. It was scary at first. Once you got to know them & understand their culture it was easy to get along with them. Our biggest problem is that we tend to huddle in cliques. Only wanting to be around like minded people. Dare we step out & meet people of other cultures & races. Heaven forbid we try to learn about their cultures & how they were raised. This country would do well to learn from other cultures on how to treat their elderly. They love & care for each other. It saddens me to the core that people are still so bigoted that they kill based on skin color, race, etc. Never mind talking to & meeting those people. Hitler’s world would be boring. Everyone looking & acting the same. I love learning about new cultures, foods, etc. One of my nieces married a Chinese man. They live in Beijing. Their children know both languages. We, especially as Christians, would do well to treat everyone like Jesus. Don’t judge anyone based on race, skin color, etc. We may be surprised how much alike we are than different.
Alia Joy says
Yes, I agree. I think what’s happened in part because a lot of well-meaning people is that we’ve gone from, 1.) We shouldn’t discriminate against race to 2.) Let’s be colorblind and ignore race (which causes it’s own damage because discrimination over race has had long term systemic impacts on our society and there is still so much racial injustice we fail to even recognize if we are all pretending everyone is the same so we never get to 3.) where racial differences and a love for diversity is celebrated, not ignored. So many people get stuck somewhere between 1 and 2 and never get to the place where we see and celebrate the beauty that is God’s intentional design. I have great hope that God is moving among his people, he is a God of redemption, a God of reconciliation, and a merciful God of justice.
Thank you for this post. I know racism is hard to talk about, but we must to bring healing. Love casts out all fear!
Becky Keife says
Agreeing with you, Shanice. Thanks for being here.
Alia Joy says
Agreed. We must because loving our neighbor fully, demands it. It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward and we’ll get stuff wrong but we’re literally in this together if we say we belong to Christ. Thanks for the encouragement, Shanice.
Betty Spreen says
beautifully crafted with eloquence and grace, thank you Alia 🙂
Becky Beresford says
Alia, THANK. YOU.
These words are it. They are the heart of God for His creation and His children. Thank you for putting into words what our ears desperately need to hear. I love this… “We confuse unity and peace with uniformity and passivity. We stay clustered and similar, familiar and unchallenged.” I couldn’t agree more.
I live in the Midwest in the Chicago suburbs… needless to say, diversity is often so hard to find. But I feel my soul seeking it… seeking out others who are different from me in color, culture and circumstance. I think my heart longs for the beautiful spectrum of heaven. Every tribe. Every nation. Every tongue.
Thank you for speaking life into me today! You are amazing.
All of God’s best to you Sister,
Shirley (GA) says
Thank you so much for this beautiful, eloquent post. I agree with every heart-felt word. I look into my own heart and know that Jesus lives there – that he wants me to love and be kind and merciful – to reach out to others. I think that MUST be the common denominator – JESUS. I saw a video of Franklin Graham a day or so before the “mid-term” elections….Basically, he was saying we need to vote for the candidates who most closely agree with our BELIEFS as Christians….the sanctity of life, that all people should be treated the same, sanctity of marriage and bible based principles…. Of course, not all candidates are Christians, just like not all people are Christians – but that should be the window that we view the world through. Yes, we are all the same in God’s eyes….no matter our skin and hair color. I pray that we can be more like Jesus in dealing with others and in our daily walk.
Alia Joy says
Hey Shirley, thanks so much for reading and I agree that Jesus sets the example for how we should live and love others. As you said, kindness, mercy, and love are essential to live a life modeled after Christ. With that said, I’m a bit confused by your comment. Were you agreeing with Franklin Graham about how we should vote or were you saying something else? I’m asking because I find many of his views to be extremely problematic in specific regards to race and racial tensions in the United States, essentially doing the opposite of what I write about in this post, which is listening to, walking with, and loving people who are very different from us, not just in skin tone, race, or language, but in everything. Franklin Graham literally said immigration is not a Bible issue yet huge sections of the Bible give specific instructions to care for the foreigner, the alien, the sojourner, the refugee. I too pray we can be more like Jesus in dealing with others and in our daily walk. I can’t think of anything more modeled after Jesus than loving our neighbor.
Thank you! This really resonates with me, as one of very few girls of colour in my small white town that aims to be “colourblind” – sometimes it is easier for me to conform rather than to do the hard work of bringing diversity, and glorifying God for creating these differences! I have to admit that it is in the church and its “traditions” that I often feel the most unheard and the most tension – and I wish bringing it up would not result in being immediately “corrected” by the church!
Becky Keife says
Addie, I’m sorry for the ways you have not been heard. That’s really painful. We’re so grateful to have your voice here.
Alia Joy says
Oh man, I know how this feels! I’m in the middle of Oregon and my county is 97% white. I am literally the diversity out here. And let’s be honest, it’s hard to bring diversity into spaces that flat out don’t want it. It’s painful to be unseen or worse, silenced. For me, it’s helped to have a community of women of color who understand many of the struggles I go through on a daily basis, even if right now they’re mostly online. There has to be space to feel like you don’t have to code switch and blend in to avoid constant conflict or you’ll burn out, or get discouraged, or grow bitter, or just live with so many wounds. It’s not a perfect solution but it may help for a season. Grace and peace to you, sister.
Becky Keife says
Alia, every time I read your words I learn something new of experiences beyond my own, but even more, I learn something new about the heart of God. Peace and unity are much easier words to let roll off the tongue than justice and diversity. But I’m with you saying it can’t be the former without the latter. I see that. I see you. I’m eager to walk this out together.
Katie W says
Amen, sister! So glad that racism and black lives matter was brought up in this space. Preach it!
Alia Joy says
Thank for being here for it and for the solidarity.
It is so very important that we reach out and fellowship within a diverse body of believers. As a white woman in the South it is something that my family and I have had to seek out because unfortunately there are not many churches that are diverse that match the community surrounding it. (Our community is 35% minority and thankfully our church is also). Speaking up and out in this day and age is also very important because we hear so much disunity and hatred from leaders in the United States right now. Christ doesn’t vote along party lines. He wants racial unity, love, compassion, and nurturing to be flowing from our lips towards others. Thank you for speaking up and speaking truth. I am so grateful.
Calvonia Radford says
All we need do is look at the rainbow, the wildflowers, the varied shades of grass or leaves and we know, God expects his church to be diverse. I think we struggle to be commUNITY because we are comfortable in our own space with similar people. 27 years ago when my husband started his pastorate in this area our neighborhood was predominately African American. Currently, the same neighborhood is mostly Caucasian, many Hispanics and a few black folks. Sadly, our congregation looks much the same as it did over two decades ago. This saddens me. If each of us would mingle with our new neighbors, maybe inviting someone over for a cup of tea and some small talk we would learn that so we are different, we are the same. Lord help us!