I want to live in a continual state of learning. I notice immense growth occurs when I am exposed to thought or people different from myself; new ideas and perspectives are fascinating to me! If I think how I’ve always thought - if I do as I’ve always done - I remain the same. But if I continually step outside of myself, my natural pattern of thinking and acting, I believe I will get a more complete picture of my Maker and this life and humanity. The cultural richness of the world – varied as it is – is an expression of the Person and glory of God, our Creator.
There are 5,000+ ethnicities, 196 countries, and an estimated 6,500 spoken languages in the world today. With that much diversity, what is it that binds us all together? What could possibly unite people with such a vast amount of backgrounds, cultures, ways of thinking and relating and doing things?
A smile is called a “universal language.” A laugh. Communication that transcends any language barrier or prejudice. Truth, goodness, and beauty, which may look differently culture to culture, but are still held as virtues. However, the strongest and most important link we have between every culture is the magnificent truth that every human being is created in the image of God.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” - Genesis 1:27-28
The beginning of humanity’s expansion.
Ten chapters later, we read, “Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words” (Genesis 11:1). The people said, "'Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth'" (Genesis 11:4). In this story of the Tower of Babel, the Lord confused the peoples’ language, where they didn’t understand one another. He then “scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:9).
The beginning of cultures.
Now, if you’re still tracking with me, I want to take a new direction and nerd out for a bit. I sat in on my friends’ Tolkien class a few weeks ago. I loved it because the professor talked Middle Earth, literature, life, and Lord of the Rings the whole time (I own Arwen’s Evening Star necklace in preparation for my upcoming Halloween costume, just to give you a little taste of my passion).
I learned that in Tolkien’s writing, he introduces a concept called, “splintering.” An example of this is a light prism. If you remember from middle school Science, white light passing through a prism creates a rainbow. Then, when coming back through the prism, there is white light again.
Similarly, as seen in Genesis 11, the people broke off from their original state of togetherness, causing many different cultures to exist. One day, those who know the Lord will all stand before Him to worship.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb…” - Revelation 7:9
Until then, we are living in the midst of this “Splintering.”
Here’s what I love about this world. Any person I can encounter, any new culture I can be exposed to, other cultures of worship to God – are all an expression of His character. Though we are different, we come from the same Source. Because He is so complex, it only makes sense that we would all be so diverse and unique. This is worth celebrating! The purpose and reward of studying other cultures and their worship is that I might understand the Creator more fully.
D.B. Hart puts it, “One might imagine God’s infinite actuality as a pure white light, which contains the full visible spectrum in its simple unity, and then imagine the finite essences of creatures as prisms, which can capture that light only by way of their ‘faceted’ finitude, thus diminishing it and refracting it into multiplicity.”
It is amazing to look at this world and see so much diversity. We are all created in God's image and portray different aspects of His character. This week, we want to encourage you to be open-minded in learning about other cultures and teachable from worship unlike your own.