I’ll be honest. The story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis Chapter 11 has always baffled me on multiple levels.
Back up two chapters. God has wiped out everyone on the planet, with the exception of Noah’s family, via the flood. Noah’s family exits the ark and receives a blessing from God. Along with the blessing God gives a simple command. “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1)
Noah’s family obviously got busy being obedient to that command because two chapters later the earth’s population was increasing at an incredible rate. Which leads us to the Tower of Babel story.
“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.” (Genesis 11:1) People were moving east fulfilling God’s command to fill the earth. However, when they reached the plain in Shinar they decided they were no longer interested in filling the earth. They wanted to settle and build a great city instead of continuing to travel. This was their first mistake and disobedience to God’s command in Genesis 9:1.
They said to each other, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4) Their second mistake was allowing their pride and arrogance to get in the way. They wanted to elevate themselves literally and figuratively above all others in creation.
Where I always got confused was in the response from God. The Lord investigates what is going on and then gathers together for a meeting with the other triune persons of God. In verse 6, we see an observation that the Lord makes about what he saw. “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”
Is Jesus saying that people could really build a tower that literally would reach the heavens? Was that meant to be more metaphorical? What exactly does “nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” mean? Did God feel threatened by man? So many questions without answers!
Regardless of the questions that we may have, there was no question for God. God was determined to respond to man’s disobedience and arrogance.
“Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other. So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” (Genesis 11:7-8)
The one thing that goes without question is the fact that we can clearly trace back to Genesis chapter 11 as the birthplace of diversity. Without this incident, all people would have remained the same. All people would have shared the same heritage, language, origins, etc.
Diversity was always part of God’s original plan for people. We see this importance of that in Genesis 9:1 where God commands Noah’s family to fill the whole earth. It was so important to God that He would not leave it to chance. If man would not be obedient, He would intervene and make it so.
Seeing the importance of diversity to God it makes you wonder does the Church also embrace the importance of diversity? One quick look at most churches and the quick conclusion would be a resounding no.
Thankfully, many churches are beginning to see the importance of diversity. Churches are having conversations and implementing strategies on how to become more diverse. The three areas that are often targeted are racial, socioeconomic, and gender.
I would propose that churches are missing a major component of diversity if they are only targeting socioeconomics, race, and gender. I would propose that without addressing disability the diversity conversation is incomplete.
To have true diversity that is pleasing to God, disability must be a part of the equation.
Disability is a major theme throughout scripture. God makes it clear that He is the author of disability (Exodus 4). Jesus proclaims that there is a divine purpose to disability (John 9). Jesus commits a major portion of his public ministry working with the disability community. Paul preaches that churches are incomplete without disability (1 Corinthians 12).
If churches do not add disability to the diversity equation they are missing out on something that God intended for them. Diversity is important to God. It was important enough that God was willing to step into human history and force it upon humanity. It makes you wonder if God was willing to step into human history to force it into existence once would He be willing to do it again? If the Church is not willing to address it how long will God be willing to be patient?
Is the Church being disobedient? Is the Church lost in its own personal arrogance? Is the Church too much like the people in Genesis Chapter 11 who were all alike and only spoke one common language?
It makes me wonder.