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Babel

Babel

Genesis 11:1-9, Acts 2:1-21

The Bible’s foundational story set ends with Babel and a new beginning. There are many facets of the Babel story but we’ll focus here on language as it’s the first thing mentioned in the Genesis 11 account. They had a “common language and a common vocabulary” (NET Bible). Even though we are tasked with using language to preach the word of God, we might not consider language enough. Babel teaches us that when humans get together in like-minded groups to accomplish lofty goals, their language is a concern.
 
Groups can use language to unite. This can be healthy for us if we speak to one another in “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” This can also be problematic if our lingo becomes exclusive. 
 
Groups can also suffer disunity when they aren’t speaking the same language. The world is constantly churning up new terms and ways of describing things that can be adopted by some in the church while others stay out of the loop. The way we use language to talk about big issues like gender or race is very important. In our fellowship, many of the divisions that seem to be sparked out of nowhere often begin as deficiencies in language. 
 

In Acts 2, before the “repent and be baptized” part, we see a kind of anti-Babel. God is not building an empire, but rather a family of faith, his Kingdom/Church. Instead of making sure his disciples speak the same language, he makes sure that everyone can hear the gospel in their own language. Luke goes into great detail to drive home the Holy Spirit’s work in this regard. It should be no surprise that a God who created the world with his voice and gave us the gospel as his word would be concerned with the communication of his Christians. 

Take a moment to reflect on the effects of language in your ministry:

 
Are there lingo words in your church services that only people who are “in” would understand? How do such phrases make guests feel? How could you model and encourage the use of more descriptive language instead of church-y words?
 
Think about areas of disunity that may have flared up in the last few years in your church? How much of the issue was a war of words? How could you use the Word to create new ways to talk about divisive issues?