As I’m on holiday, I’m writing this just the day after the announcement of a coalition government. A commitment to co-operate in joint action. It is my hope that this will lead to a far more balanced government, where no one can get carried away with themselves, and give us an effective pattern of how we all have to work together to make good things happen.
At first glance it appears that the Tower if Babel is just such an action. The people get together and use their skills to start building. No problem with that. The problem comes in their attitude,
“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.”
Their building is to make a name for themselves. Not for the greater good, not for the glory of God, but so that they become famous and feel in charge.
Why do we do what we do? What motivates us? Are we building for ourselves – or for God?
The Day of Pentecost is a reversal of the Tower of Babel episode. The people come all speaking different languages, but are all able to hear what God is saying. The language differences are not removed, but each hears God’s word to them. The Spirit of God enabled, and they each heard what the disciples had to say to them and understood.
This is the challenge for us today. We have to make sure that, equipped by the Spirit, we are able to speak to people in their own language. I don’t mean we all have to go learn other languages (though that might be the calling for some), but we have to get alongside people, hear what they are saying, listen to their joys and pains. Only then will we be able to speak to them where they are – and have earned the right to be heard.
As we saw last week, Jesus calls us to be one, to live together in love. We are called to do that in the spirit of Pentecost, not of Babel. We are to work together for God, not for ourselves. We speak as one that people may hear God talking to them, not what we want to say. We should be about not building our own kingdom, but God’s Kingdom.
I do pray that the new government may be able to work together for the good of this country and throughout the world. That they may be able to set a new example of working things out together, even if you don’t always agree. I pray that God will equip them, not that we will build a tower to our glory, but that it may be a beacon to humility, respect and hope. And I pray that we may each, day by day, learn how to speak the language of those around us, that they may hear what God wants to say to them, and together we may build his city.