Every Tribe, Every Tongue

This past week, a lovely couple from Haiti visited the farm. We often have visitors who are curious about our all-volunteer farm ministry. They want to know how it works, why we do it and most of all, are we a red or green farm.

This Christian couple are different. They wanted to talk about strategies to build community and empower local leadership within the church to care for the families in their congregations.

Now American citizens, Joseph and Joycelyne came to this country for refuge many years ago. She came by boat, amidst great hardship, and he was sponsored by a church in rural Ohio.

They met as students at Duke University and now both work for World Relief, a Christian ministry that, among other things, helps refugees to flee oppression for new life here in America.

In Haiti, this couple works to build church leadership, in a multiplier model, to care for the community.

As we toured the farm and marveled at each other’s journeys of faith, a prophetic scriptural phrase kept coming into my mind — “from every tribe, and every tongue.”

In Revelation 7:9-10, we read, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Reflecting on this vision, we see how God’s perfect plan is revealed. After the great flood, the descendants of Noah get into trouble quickly. They decide they want to become like God.

The account is contained in Genesis 11:1-8, “Now the whole earth had one language. ... And they said to one another ... come let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves. ... And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of the earth, and they left off building the city.”

Sin of Pride

The original sin of pride and wanting to be like God is a persistent theme in every generation. Later in Genesis, God calls Abraham and establishes his everlasting covenant.

Hundreds of years later he calls his descendants out of slavery in Egypt, and sets them apart in the crossroads of the ancient world to be his ambassadors to a sin-filled world.

Like all human beings, the children of Israel struggle again and again to remain faithful to God’s call, wanting to go their own way.

Ultimately, God’s design of setting Israel apart to demonstrate and share God’s grace and mercy with others becomes sterile. The sin of pride fuels tribalism, separation and isolation.

Jesus came to fulfill the law and to redeem all of us from the power of sin. However, his fellow Jews were bewildered as Jesus broke down the walls of exclusiveness, tribal pride and prejudice.

We learn in Galatians that even Peter struggled with this issue when he was afraid to eat with gentiles.

The Good Samaritan, the faith of the centurion, the parable of the great banquet and healings of gentiles were all used by Jesus to illustrate that God’s mercy and grace are available to all.

Israel was simply the messenger.

Paul reminds us in Romans 10:8-13, “The word is near you, in our mouth and in your heart ... because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. ... For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

What great and good news is the Gospel. What a joy to be reminded that we — from Freeland, Maryland — together with our new friends from Haiti, and countless other brothers and sisters from every tribe and every tongue, are called by the Living God to be his witnesses to a world otherwise bereft of answers, hope or peace.

Our Lord and Savior brings one language — the language of love — to all who answer his call.

This blog was originally posted on Lancaster Farming.