There is an element in American culture at present that is bent on amplifying diversity among ethnic groups, which naturally magnifies differences at the same time. It is those very differences that have incited the pride and prejudices of men to mischief, violence, and even war. The history of nations is a history of war. In the story of David and Bathsheba there is this phrase, “…at the time that kings went to war…”, which means it was as regular as the seasons. Man is quick to shed innocent blood, says the scriptures, and war is the endeavor of one people to subdue and subjugate a people that are just a little bit different.
So where did the differences in people groups come from, and how can we learn to live with each other in peace? When speaking about diversity Christian teachers will often begin with Adam and Eve, as if the rise of nations began with them. However, we do not see a multiplicity of nations until 1440 years after Adam at the building of the tower of Babel. It was there that God divided the people.
“The Lord said, "Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech." (Genesis 11:6, 7)
The undeniable reality in verse 6 is that God referred to the human race of that time as “one people.” The word for “People” in the Hebrew could be translated compatriot or countrymen. The world of people at that time was in the sight of God as one; it was not a mixture of different ethnic families. From the beginning of creation all humanity was one in color, kindred, and culture. At the very outset even procreation was accomplished through brother and sister, which made little difference at the top of the genetic chain.
Following God’s judgment upon the whole world by a flood, which left only 8 persons alive, people once again began to repopulate the earth. What God first began with Adam He continued through Noah. Paul referred to God as the author of nations, and His reason for their formation is recorded by Luke in the book of Acts.
“He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being,” (Acts 17:26-28)
At Athens Paul proclaimed God’s desire that man might find Him, even though all he can do is grope for Him. God is never far from man because by Him all things continue to exist, for He holds all things together. For this reason Paul said, “…in Him we live and move and have our being.” However, man cannot find God by himself because of the deadness of his soul. A corrupted conscience is not sufficient to find God anymore than reason, by which we are meant to understand the creative hand of the eternal God (Romans 1 & 2). All that man can do by his own sinful and proud heart is worship himself, which became evident at the tower of Babel.
“They said, "Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth." (Genesis 11:4)
In Genesis 11:4 God said in effect, if men will not obey me and fill the earth with his multiplied presence and for my glory, then they will make war among themselves, their way will be confused, and they will not know peace. As a result of man’s quest for his own glory, God interceded with a curse, and divided men from one people, kindred, and tongue into a world of nations with borders, differing physical traits, tastes, and languages. Furthermore, sinful men can only reproduce sinful men, so that every generation perpetuates sinners with a natural bent toward self exaltation.
Man walks in the footsteps of his father the devil, who also fell through pride (John 8:44). Isaiah prophesied about the fall of Lucifer.
"How you have fallen from heaven,
Oh star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! "But you said in your heart,
‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north.‘ I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ "Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol (Hell), to the recesses of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:12-15)
Man’s plight of prejudice, hatred, and war is further complicated by the devil who seeks man’s destruction. Satan weakened (Prostrated) the nations (Isaiah 14:12) by instigating men to prejudice, which has continually led to war between nations.
God divided the world into nations, however, He does not judge men within nations by the color of their skin or the language they speak but by the content of their heart. For God has said, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All men fall short, no matter how good they seem, because all men seek their own glory above that glory that belongs to God alone.
Today we are told that we should celebrate our diversity, but in so doing we magnify the enmity between men, that resulted from man’s rebellion against God. As Christians, we should first feel remorse for having offended the One that gave us life and who eventually suffered in our place before we celebrate our differences. It was our hatred of God, which led to all the violence that we do to one another, first man to man and then nation to nation. We must never lose sight of the fact that God divided men into nations and languages as a curse for our rebellious heart.
The God that we serve is able to give life to dead things, turn sinners into saints, and one day turn the disgrace of nations into a testament for His glory.
“I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; (Revelation 21:22-27)
One day there will be a new Jerusalem and a new temple, which is the one true God and the Lamb that was slain for the sins of men. The focal point of all men in that day will be the glory of God. The nations will walk for God’s glory and not their own. The word Jerusalem means “double peace.” In that day there will be peace with God, which results in a peace among all men. The sacrifice of Jesus will be perpetually on display that brought peace on earth as a testament to God’s glory. Until that day comes we must be exceedingly careful to place proper emphasis on our sin, which we so readily overlook, and on Christ who alone can cancel our debt and restore our obedience.
We are further told that the kings of the earth will bring their glory into the New Jerusalem, which is the holiness of nations. “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” The emphasis in the new world is not the glory of diversity but the cleanness of heart and the sinless perfection by which people live their lives. There is no such state in our present world; Christ is mocked, the people rage, and the world is at war. In the new world it will be perfectly right to enjoy the diversity of nations where holiness dwells, but I think it far more prudent to downplay such diversity in our present world that is still living under the curse. In the Church our emphasis must be in the Lamb who was slain and who chooses men out of every nation to save.
“And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” (Revelation 5:9)
Until that day, it would be better for the Church to focus upon the unity we have as a new race of people, with Christ as our federal head and no longer Adam. The holy sacrifice of Jesus and His subsequent resurrection has replaced the old race in Adam with a new race in Christ. (Romans 5) The thought of our new identity in Christ should so outweigh our ethnicity so that we become blind to our differences. Unity is the need of the hour and not diversity. Pride in national heritage is all too destructive. Therefore, we need to place God’s glory on display through our unity, which is a direct result of Jesus’ person and work. Let us see Jesus and not ourselves, let us behold His glory and leave our rewards of praise up to Him. (1 Corinthians 4:4, 5)
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full into His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”