Bible study: Valuing different countries and ethnic identities

Christian PerspectiveChristian Perspective

Valuing different cultures and ethnic identities

In Genesis chapters 1–11 we read about the beginnings of many things – the world itself and all its creatures, marriage, agriculture, sin, cities, music and metalwork. We also learn about the beginnings of nations or ethnic identities in Genesis 10:1–11:9. Some people find lists of names boring, but the lists in the Bible, including this one in Genesis 10, remind us that God is interested in the families, clans, tribes and ethnic identities to which we belong.

Read Genesis 10

  • What happened to Noah’s descendants, as described in Genesis 10?
  • Did God approve of the scattering of people over the earth? See Genesis 9:1 and 1:28.
  • What are some of the key differences that developed between people as they travelled further from each other?

As the descendants of Noah increased, they spread out and became separate ethnic identities, living in different places and speaking different languages, as God had always intended they should. Genesis 11:1-9 tells of an early attempt to stop this process from happening.

Read Genesis 11:1-9

  • What did those responsible for the project of building Babel hope to achieve?
  • Why did the builders of the tower want to prevent people from wandering off and becoming different?
  • How did God stop the building of Babel?

Throughout history there have been ethnic groups that have tried to get rid of diversity in order to increase their power, so that they can ‘build a tower reaching to heaven and make a name for themselves’. Every time, God has caused these empires to fall, so that diversity can be re-established. God has his own way of uniting different ethnic identities and cultures without destroying their differences.

Read Revelation 7:9-10

List the differences between the way the builders of the tower of Babel and true followers of Christ deal with ethnic and cultural diversity.

Churches that build ‘towers of Babel’ force us to become like them so that we can be ‘saved’ – those who follow Christ en-courage us to be saved just as we are…

We should value, respect and celebrate the differences between ethnic groups as we encourage the use of theatre, song and dance in our work.

Dewi Hughes is Theological Advisor for Tearfund, with a particular interest in ethnic diversity. E-mail: dewi.hughes@tearfund.org