Last week I met with a young man from Kenya named Juma. He is a student at the University nearby. We met through his teacher. He requested to meet with me to help develop an app to aid people in connecting across cultures. I have thought of creating an app for years, I just don’t have the skills or imagination for how to create it. Yet, Juma, who grew up in an orphanage in Kenya, does have the creative imagination and the technical skills to create the much-needed app.
We sat outside the coffee shop on campus and watched people walk by and together drew a doodle on the same page, each contributing words and ideas to the page imagining what our app would do. This experience put me in awe again about the diversity, creativity, and imagination that comes to us and through us to each other from God. I’ll explain.
I am certain that God planned from the beginning for many people groups and cultures. He never intended for humans to be one group, one culture, one type of person. From one man, he created two distinct types of human beings with different bodies and different physical capacities, man and woman.
By the time we read about the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, people had stopped spreading and were attempting to build one gigantic human culture, represented by the tower that they were building. The great human culture would be so tall, it would reach God. God was not afraid to be reached, but the tower was not the way to do it, so God “confused their language” and created multiple languages causing the people to not be able to understand each other. This was the birth of multiple languages. This birth caused people to form new groups, go to new places, and form new cultures in those places.
Many have taught this as a story of God cursing the people by “confusing the languages,” however, it was really God intervening in the affairs of humans to assure that his will of “spreading over the earth” and demonstrating His creativity was accomplished. Contrary to what I often hear people say, God did not create our various cultures, humans did. God gave many languages to help humans form new communities and cultures, but God gave humans His own creative power to create and build community and cultures.
Diversity of the human race was God’s idea in the first place, just as it was His idea to empower our survival with diverse plants and animals and places upon the earth. A Creative One of such vastness could not be capable of homogeneous humanity, because it takes so many of us to reflect all of God. This begs the question, “Who could imagine doing anything less than seeking to know and love our Creator more every day by seeking to know and love the Image Bearers he created?”
Let us use our God-given imagination and creativity to be His hand extended to our neighbors whom we understand, and those who we do not. It is a divine act to learn how to love our neighbors, and especially our “enemies” and those who are “strangers” in the way God has loved us. As I see it, it is truly our prime mandate while we live and breathe on this earth.
I hope this Christmas season, as we come through one of the worst seasons of human suffering and loss in recent memory, you will use your divine imagination with me and join in this journey of loving appreciation and learning from each other. I will especially focus my intention to love and learn from those who know things I do not know, and live-in ways I have not lived, and speak languages I cannot speak.
This Christmas, I hope Juma accepts my invitation to celebrate the coming of Jesus with us. He may teach us traditions to celebrate in ways I have never learned before because he, in his experience as an orphan, a Kenyan, a computer scientist, and an international sojourner knows something I do not yet know about God. I cannot even imagine how I will grow yet from this one wonderful person . . .but God can.
By Doc Courage