Welcoming the World
Genesis 11: 1-9
1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.’ And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.’ 5 The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. 6 And the Lord said, ‘Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.’ 8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
Every day, I try to take a lunchtime walk. I step out of the air-conditioned, sanitised office building on to the vibrant, noisy streets of London. Often I walk to the British Museum, passing students and visitors, young Japanese men with face masks against the smog; Muslim women with hijab or veils; crocodiles of Chinese visitors, eager to snap photos. London is incredibly diverse.
In our office, we recognised a while ago that attracting a diverse workforce would strengthen our talents. Amongst the people I work with on a daily basis are: a young Oxford graduate with Nigerian parents; a Californian; a German expert on competition law; a Romanian paralegal; a fellow partner whose parents come from disputed Kashmir; our Syrian security guard; my trainee, a Canadian Serb; and a senior solicitor from Woking.
The story of the Tower of Babel reminds us of our common core, our shared humanity. Our world around us stresses the fractures and divisions in that heritage. Whether it’s the terraces of a Scottish football stadium or the blood on the floor of a mosque in New Zealand, we are confronted with what makes us different and that difference is to be feared.
What we see in the Bible’s grand story is the history of mankind running away from God - and, in so doing, introducing strife, envy, excessive competition and greed. But we also see the solution to those ills in the person of Jesus.
Who knows what the story on Brexit will be by the time this is published but never in my lifetime do I recall a time with so much potential for the growth of an insular, narrow worldview. When we define ourselves by adherence to a flag (whether St Andrew or St George) or by lauding the accident of birth which landed us in any particular nation state, we immediately put at risk our understanding of the bonds of humanity which tie every human heart together. When we define ourselves as children of God - known, loved and saved by Jesus, we cannot ignore the big picture. “Diversity” is not some management buzzword. It’s a working out of our common humanity and the richness and range of our God-given talents.
Help us to move beyond concepts of nation, or language, or race, or colour. Help us to see every human face as uniquely loved by you. Help us to see every human need equally as an affront to your will for your creation. Equip us and strengthen us to love indiscriminately and completely.