The Family of Man (Genesis 10:1-32)

Last week we saw Noah begin his life on the New Earth by planting a garden. He was the new Adam, and his job was to work the ground and protect it. So he did that — and for a brief moment we wondered if, perhaps, this would be the New Garden of Eden: a new center of life and order and worship where God would once again live as a gentle Father with his children.

But then we found our that it was not to be: the Garden of Eden is gone, really gone. God really meant it back in Chapter 6 when he said that his Spirit would not live with mankind anymore, that in 120 years he would be moving out. He did exactly that — and chaos rushed in to replace him, wiping out the garden and everything else.

True, the flood is now finished…but God’s Spirit has not yet returned. He is present in his creation, and he has promised Noah that he will sustain the general order of creation — seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night — but he no longer lives with mankind upon the face of the earth as he did in the garden before the flood.

In other words: mankind no longer has a sacred center.

And we saw the beginning effects of this last week when Ham, Noah’s youngest son, tried to remove his father from his position of authority. Just like Cain, before the flood, who shattered his family by murdering his brother, Ham shattered the unity of Noah’s growing tribe by trying to murder his father’s reputation.

And what this shows us is that Noah was a wonderfully obedient saviour for his family during the flood! — but he is not wonderful enough. He was unable to provide the stable center that his sons and his grandsons and his great-grandsons really needed —

— and so this week we are going to see how those first small cracks in Noah’s family eventually result in a racially divided earth.

So let’s get started!

Now, last week Moses finished his Book 4 of Genesis by telling us that Noah died. So a brief review is in order here:

Now, if you recall, Book 1 of Genesis was like the introduction, the prelude to the rest of Genesis. It told the story of how God assembled and consecrated the universe as a Cosmic Temple over the course of 7 days.

Book 2 was the account of Adam’s garden and what came after the judgement. Book 3 was the account of Adam’s sons.

Then, when we got to Book 4, we discovered that Book 4 was actually a development of Book 2: Book 4 was the account of Noah’s ark and what came after that judgement, just as Book 2 was the account of Adam’s garden and what came after.

So, having seen that pattern, we might expect that Book 5 will be a development of Book 3, which was the account of Adam’s sons. And…sure enough: Book 5 is the account of Noah’s sons:

[1] This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.

Pretty cool, right?

And just as Book 3 — the account of Adam’s sons — was a long and complicated genealogy full of unpronounceable names…so is Book 5!

Isn’t that great?

Well, for most of us: no. These are the parts we usually skip when we’re reading by ourselves because we just don’t get it. But for the ancient people of Israel, all these names would have been deeply fascinating. They would have seen this genealogy as —

— I’m sure you have all seen those time-lapse videos on youtube that show how empires have come and gone over the centuries, or how people-groups have migrated from one place to another? That is how the ancient people of Israel would have seen this genealogy. They would have been watching this over Moses’ shoulder as he played it on his device, going, “Ooooo!”

So it’s my job here, today, to help bring this ancient youtube video back to life.

So as we press play, we hear a special documentary narrator voice say: the sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshek and Tiras. [3] The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah. [4] The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites and the Rodanites.

Now, I’m not going to go over every name here, because that would be boring, and it would actually obscure the flow of the timelapse. And it’s the timelapse that actually contains the story.

So the first thing we see, as the video loads, is a map of the world — flat, because ancient people believed the the earth was flat. And around the edges of the map we see some special mountains highlighted: some on the southern edge somewhere in Africa or Arabia; some on the western edge, beyond the Mediterranean Sea — perhaps somewhere in Spain; some on the eastern edge, in Iran, which we now call the Zagros mountains; and some in the north, in Turkey, which are called the Mountains of Ararat. Many ancient people believed that these mountains were the pillars that held up the solid sky-roof.

Then a point appears next to the Ararat mountains on the northern edge, marking the spot where Noah’s ark landed, where Noah’s family first settled. And then as a timer in the corner of the screen begins to speed up, counting off the years and then the centuries, the first movement we see is of these seven names that begin to travel east and west across the top half of the map, expanding and subdividing into seven more names as they go: 14 different people groups, all distantly related to Japheth, Noah’s son. All with their own special colour, of course.

And as we watch, these 14 nations end up settling around the Caspian Sea in the northeast, around the Black Sea in the north, and around the northern and western coasts of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Spain. And as the entire northern half of the map gets filled up with these 14 nations, the documentary voice comes back on with verse 5:

From these the maritime peoples — that means the “sea peoples” or “island peoples” — spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.”

And then we all say, “Oooooooo!”

Now I am going to pause the video here for a moment to point out two of these names: Javan (the 4th son of Japheth) and Tiras (the 7th son). Javan is also pronounced Iavan, which is also pronounced Ionian, and the Ionian people became the Greeks. The sons of Tiras became known as the Tyrrhenians, also known as the Etruscan people…who grew into the Romans. That is very significant! And all of you who were here last week know why.

If you weren’t here last week…you can find out why these people are important at, you’ll find the latest podcast at the bottom of the page.

Now, as the video resumes, we find that the year counter has reset to “0 Years After the Flood”, and the narrator goes on to say: [6] The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan. [7] The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteka. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.

And as he says this we see the timer speed up through the years, and this time four names — each one in a different colour, of course — travel southward from the Ararat mountains. And one of those names — Ham’s oldest son, Cush — goes further than all the rest. He subdivides and subdivides again until, many centuries later, seven nations arrive in Africa, far to the south and west. They end up settling the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

Then the documentary voice comes back on and says, [8] Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. [9] He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” [10] The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. [11] From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah [12] and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city.

And as the narrator tells us this, we see a fresh color break away from the seven Cushite nations — which are on their way to filling up North Africa — and this fresh color travels back toward the east. And the video zooms in on the eastern edge of the map — where we now find Iraq and Iran — and we see a sprinkling of dots appear one by one as each of these great cities are named.

And the ancient people of Israel, as they heard the names of these cities, would have nodded knowingly to each other. Because, even in the time of Moses, these cities — especially Babylon and Nineveh — were on their way to becoming famous world-conquering empires.

So it seems as if — according to this video — an extremely aggressive and warlike people group broke away from the line of Cush and went in the opposite direction, and settled the eastern side of the map.

Now, the video continues: [13] Egypt was the father of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, [14] Pathrusites, Kasluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites.

We noticed earlier that Cush broke into seven nations and then settled North Africa. Now we notice that the second son, Egypt, has also broken into seven nations, and they are filling up the Arabian parts of the map, settling around the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, around the Red Sea in the south, and around the Persian Gulf in the southeast.

Then, [15] Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hittites, [16] Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, [17] Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, [18] Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites.

So the seven nations of Cush went southwest into Africa. The seven nations of Egypt went south into Arabia. But the youngest son of Ham — Canaan — travels down the eastern side of the map, into Iraq and Iran. He subdivides into 11 nations — each one in a different colour, of course. And these 11 nations sort of run head-long into the Nimrod people group, who have broken away from Cush’s people and are also moving in to settle the eastern half of the map.

And at first these 11 Canaanite nations seem to stick together there in the east. But as the year counter clicks up rapidly through the centuries, suddenly something happens! and those 11 Canaanite nations suddenly explode westward, toward the Mediterranean Sea, moving away from the east and away from each other.

And as we watch this startling movement, the narrator’s voice says: later the Canaanite clans scattered [19] and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, as far as Lasha.

And as these cities are named, one by one their dots appear on the map. And as the video zooms out we notice that these cities are actually in the center of the map, in the center of the world, in a land that — today — we call Palestine. And as the 11 Canaanite nations fill up that land in the center of the map, we notice that one of them — the Jebusites, from verse 16 — build a city in the center of the center of the map.

And we can’t help but notice that the location of the Jebusite city is the exact same location as another city that will become important much later on. We call that city “Jerusalem”, but back then they called it the city of Jebus.

And then the counter slows down and pauses for a moment, and the narrator’s voice says, [20] These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

And then we all say, “Oooooooo!”

Because, as we look at the map so far, we are seeing that the northern half of the world has been settled by the sons of Japheth, the southern half of the world has been settled by the sons of Cush and Egypt, the eastern half has been settled by Nimrod’s people, and the center has finally been settled by the sons of Canaan — apparently, after they experienced some kind of crisis in the far east.

So all that is pretty cool, right? The whole world has been settled by Noah’s sons Japheth and Ham: north, south, east, west, and center —

— but wait a minute: didn’t Noah have a third son?

And — sure enough — when we check the progress bar on the video we realize we’re actually only 2/3rds of the way through.

So we press play again. And we find that the year counter has — again — been reset to “0 Years After the Flood”. And the narrator says: [21] Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber

— and we’re all thinking, “Huh, why does he highlight the name Eber? Is that guy supposed to be important somehow?”

But the narrator has already moved on so we don’t have time to think about that: [22] The sons of Shem: Elam, Ashur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram. [23] The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshek. [24] Arphaxad was the father of Shelah, and Shelah the father of Eber.

And again as the timer speeds up through the centuries, we see five names — each one in a different colour, of course — travelling southward from the Ararat mountains. Just like the Canaanite nations, they also travel down the eastern side of the map. And just like the Canaanite nations, they quickly subdivide into 11 names. And these 11 nations also run head-long into the Nimrod people group, who are busy building those famous cities.

And, again, at first these 11 Shemite nations seem to stick together there in the east. But then, as the year counter clicks up rapidly through the centuries, suddenly something happens! — some kind of crisis in the far east.

The narrator says, [25] Two sons were born to Eber: One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan.

And as the narrator is saying this, the video zooms in on the Eber people group — and we see them divide and separate. One group is called Peleg, and it sort of freeze-frames there on the map. But the other people group is called Joktan.

And as the narrator continues —

[26] Joktan was the father of Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, [27] Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, [28] Obal, Abimael, Sheba, [29] Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan

— we watch as the Eber people group quickly breaks up into 14 separate nations — not including Peleg. And then, just like the 11 Canaanite nations when this crisis happened, these 14 nations also explode westward, toward the Mediterranean Sea, while the narrator tells us,

[30] The region where they lived stretched from Mesha toward Sephar, in the eastern hill country

And so these 14 nations also end up settling in the center of the map, at various points between Arabia in the south and Syria in the north, though we can see that their main population centers are on the eastern side of the center.

And then the counter in the video slows down and comes to a halt, and the narrator’s voice says, [31] These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

And then we all say, “Oooooooo!”

Because that is the end of the video. And at the bottom we can find all the usual information: 29 billion views. Published on March 16, 1423 B.C. by user “MosestheLevite”. And here, in verse 32, we find a brief description of what the video is about: These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.

And if we scroll down further we find the comments section. And I have to say it is hardly ever a good idea to read the comments. Most of them are by trolls, and the rest are by people who obviously did not understand what they just watched. And this video in particular has inspired a lot of racist commentary — for obvious reasons.

But occasionally you’ll find a comment that is actually trying to interact in a productive way with the material. Like this question, for instance: “Japheth, Cush, Egypt, and Eber all produced 7 or 14 nations. But Canaan and Shem produced 11 nations. Are these numbers significant?”

Yes. See, Moses likes to use patterns of “seven” to symbolize holiness, perfection…and completion. So by using 7’s and 14’s like this, he is basically saying, “The stories of these people groups are basically complete. They are not going to be the main focus of my writing from this point on.” That way, when he uses the number 11 to describe the Canaanites and the Shemites, this is a way of highlighting those two nations and pointing out that the saga of their migrations is not done yet.

And sure enough, we do find that the rest of Moses’ books — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy — are mostly focused on the interactions between the Canaanites and the Shemites.

But there is another reason these numbers are all significant: Moses carefully structured this genealogy to make sure that the entire list of names adds up to 70. If you count carefully, you’ll find there are 70 nations named here. And I think we already understand why: Moses was telling his readers that this list covers every people group in the world, whether they are mentioned by name or not.

Let’s see…here’s another good question from the comments: “What was that crisis in the east that scattered the 11 Canaanite nations, and divided the Eber family?”

Ah. Well, that crisis is actually related to Nimrod building those famous cities in the east. One of those cities goes terribly wrong, and…

— you know what? This event is actually important enough that we’ll need to dedicate an entire video to it. So we’ll record that one next week, same time, same place, so make sure to be here for that!

Here’s another question: “Why was Eber mentioned three times in this video, is he especially significant?

Yes, he is. Later on Eber’s people will come to be known as the Eberews. And then someone is going to stick an “H” onto the front of that name, and we’ll discover that the Hebrew people — A.K.A. the people of Israel — are actually the main focus of the rest of the Old Testament. So yes: Eber is an important name.

Another question: “Why did the video show us what happened to the Joktan people groups, but say nothing about what happened to Peleg, his brother? Did Peleg’s family just die off or something?”

Uhhh, well, no, Peleg’s family did not just die off. Quite the opposite actually. The real reason Moses focused on Joktan’s nations here was to get their story out of the way so he can focus the rest of his book on what happens to Peleg’s family. And that story is going to begin two Sundays from now. So…make sure you log in for that as well, so you can find out why Peleg is so important!

And…that’s it for the good questions. The rest of the comments are racist flame-wars and people selling diet pills.

Which means that it’s time now for us to ask the question we ask every week: so what? What does this mean for us?

Especially since our conception of the world is so very different from Moses’! I mean, look: we know that the world is far larger than just Turkey and Arabia, Spain and Iran. We know there are more than 70 ethnic groups. And if Moses was so wrong in his geography and his sociology, how can we take anything he says seriously?

Well, before writing Moses off as an undeducated fool, the gracious thing to do — with any ancient writer! — is to approach his writing through the mindset of his original, ancient audience. After we figure out what this meant to the ancient people of Israel, then we will be able to evaluate its worth to us.

So: what did all this mean to the ancient people of Israel?

Well, in one sense, this chapter is Moses’ way of showing his people how the whole world fits together. But it is also Moses’ way of showing his people how the world has been broken apart. This chapter is designed to demonstrate the unity of mankind — and to reveal the hole at humanity’s center.

So we’ll start by focusing on the first concept here: the unity of mankind.

We live in a very cosmopolitan world here — Kuala Lumpur is one of the most diverse cities on the planet — and so we are used to “getting along” cross-racially and cross-culturally. So we do not easily realize just how revolutionary Moses’ writing actually was for its time and place.

Back then, most ancient cultures believed that their people were the only people: everyone else was gaijin, guai lo, monsters without souls. But Moses wanted his people to understand that all mankind is made in the image of God. That is why he made sure his list ended up with 70 names. He was not interested in sociological accuracy, he was interested in sending this message loud and clear: all of mankind is related! Every kind of person in the world has a soul.

And this has one very important implication: if every kind of person in the world has a soul, then every kind of person in the world has the ability to enter into a covenant relationship with God. This was Moses’ very specific message for ancient Israel: God’s salvation is not just for the Hebrew people.

And this implication leads us to the second concept contained here: the hole at humanity’s center.

The garden of Eden is gone. Noah is dead. And so through this chapter Moses is showing his people that, without a sacred center to unite them, mankind inevitably divides and subdivides and spreads and scatters. Mankind needs a center. And that is why Moses made sure his list included names from every corner of the world as he understood it. He was not interested in geographical accuracy, he was interested in drawing the eyes of his ancient readers to that tiny little land in the middle of the map. He was saying, “This is going to be the new sacred center for all mankind. This land is going to be the new garden of Eden.”

Now, it is no coincidence — of course — that this land in the center is also the land God has promised to give to the people of Israel. And this also has one very important implication: God has called the people of Israel to be a nation of priests who will work that sacred soil at the center of the world and protect it. It is their job to lead the rest of the nations back into true worship.

In other words, this was Moses’ very specific message for ancient Israel: God’s salvation is not just for the Hebrew people — but it begins with the Hebrew people. Through God’s covenant with them, they are going to be a holy people living in a holy land at the sacred center of the world. And from them God’s salvation is going to flow outward to all the nations and draw all the nations in until all the peoples become One People, and all the gods become One God.

Now that, friends, is not foolishness on Moses’ part! That is an amazing long-term vision statement for the people of Israel!

But now we have to ask: how does this vision apply to us? We are not the nation of Israel; we do not live in the Promised Land. So…?

Well, let me show you how this concept developed over the centuries:

By the end of the Book of Genesis — spoiler alert! — 70 sons of Israel will travel down to captivity in Egypt. That’s one son to represent each nation in the world. In other words: all of mankind is in symbolic slavery alongside Israel.

By half-way through the Book of Exodus, 70 elders of Israel will meet God face to face on Mount Sinai. That’s one elder to represent each nation in the world. In other words: all of mankind can potentially be saved through the God of Israel.

And then, a long time later, in the Book of Luke, Jesus of Nazareth will send out 70 disciples to preach the Good News of God’s kingdom. That’s one disciple to represent each nation in the world. In other words: the gospel will be preached to all mankind.

And sure enough, a few months later, on the Day of Pentecost in the city of Jerusalem, the Spirit of God finally returned to live with mankind upon the face of the earth, just as he had in the garden of Eden. That moment is captured in the New Testament, in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2. And Luke, the writer of Acts, in a very clever throwback to Chapter 10 of Genesis, lists out all the different nations that were present in the city that day; and he lists them out geographically, in a ring — north, east, south, and around to the islands of the west — the “maritime peoples” — all centered around the Spirit of God as he descended and filled the Church in Jerusalem. All of the 70 nations of the world were symbolically present there on the Day of Pentecost.

In other words, Luke is saying, when God’s Spirit descended upon the Church that day, the Church became the newly re-planted garden of Eden on earth; the Church became the new Promised Land. Look! It has all the same elements. Just like the garden, just like the Promised Land, Christ’s Church has the Tree of Life at its center: the cross of Christ himself. Just like the garden, just like the Promised Land, Christ’s Church has a nation of priests dedicated to leading the rest of the world into true worship — except that our priesthood is not just made up of Hebrew people, it is made up of people from every nation on earth! And just like the garden, just like the Promised Land, Christ’s Church has a sacred soil that we are called to work and to protect: the earth in its entirety.

And what this means on a practical level, brothers and sisters, is that only the cross of Christ can bring true unity to mankind. Only the cross of Christ can guarantee that every nation, every tribe, every language has God’s permission to come and join in covenant relationship with him. There is no race or ethnicity that is not allowed to come to Christ!

But again, we live in a very cosmopolitan world here, where a lot of people are getting this idea that all religions are basically the same. And so someone is going to object at this point and say, “Oh, come on now, that’s a pretty exclusive claim don’t you think? Jesus is not the only one who can unite mankind, other religions and other philosophies are also able to do the same thing!”

Well…friend…if that is true, you’re going to have to show me some evidence. And as far as I can tell, the evidence supports my statement. Christianity has proven to be truly revolutionary in every time and place it has been tried, especially in comparison with other faiths. For instance, Buddhism has tried to bring unity to mankind for several thousand years, but to this day it is very very difficult to be accepted as truly Buddhist if you are not ethnically Chinese or Burmese or Thai. Hinduism has been working at it for even longer than Buddhism! but to this day it is very difficult to be truly Hindu if you are not also Indian. Islam also has been trying to unite the world — and yet, at the very core of that faith is the belief that if you are not Arabic or Arabic-speaking, you are a second-class citizen. Even modern secular religions like Radical Environmentalism or Philosophical Vegetarianism only offer unity at the expense of diversity: in order to be accepted into those groups you have to comply with a very narrow set of beliefs and behaviours — if you deviate from their norms, you no longer qualify.

But Christianity has proven unique in its ability to draw all the different nations together into one people while still preserving their unique identities. And it took the early Church less than 15 years to be noticed for their amazing inter-racial unity. In Acts, Chapter 11, the citizens of cosmopolitan Antioch had to invent a new name for the diverse followers of Jesus: they called them “Christians”, because they could no longer call them “Jews” or “Greeks” or “Africans” or “Asians” or some other race-based name. Less than 15 years after it began, Christianity was already too ethnically diverse to be easily labelled.

And by three hundred years after that, the leaders of the whole Roman Empire had figured this out: they were deeply angry at the Christians because the Christians accepted everybody into their churches, regardless of race or ethnicity or culture or status — and the leaders of the Roman Empire hated that. They wanted to keep the races divided, because then they are easier to conquer and control. They hated the fact that the Church was actually bringing racial reconciliation to the empire!

And this has continued to be true right up to the present day: Christianity is still the only truly international philosophy in the world.

Why? How have we been able to accomplish this?

Because our sacred center is not a place, it is a person: Jesus Christ. Our garden of Eden is not one particular spot on the globe, it is everywhere a church has been planted.

In other words: all of the evidence of history demonstrates that only the cross of Christ can bring true unity to mankind.

The cross of Christ is the only true solution to the hole at humanity’s center.

This, friends, is the gospel truth that is transforming our world: God’s salvation is not just for the Hebrew people, it is for all peoples! And while God’s salvation was once centered on the Hebrew people, now the center of God’s salvation is everywhere a Christian church has been planted. Through the Church, God’s salvation has been flowing outward to all the nations and drawing all the nations in. And one day, all the peoples will become One People, and all the gods One God.

Now that is an amazing long-term vision statement for us, the people of God!

But there is a problem, isn’t there?

Because we Christians still have a soft spot for…tribalism. Racism. Nationalism. Ethnocentrism. We still have a tendency to discriminate against others on a number of different levels: culturally, financially, philosophically, theologically. We still have a tendency to lose track of the truth that all human beings are made in the image of God — even people from other races and other religions.

And it does no good for us to say, “Well, yeah, fine, but history has proven that we have less of a problem with this than everybody else!”

So: how are we going to solve this problem? I mean: really solve it?

Well, to find a solution first you have to identify the root of the problem. Division and discrimination are actually the symptoms of a deeper heart issue. What is that issue?

It’s the same as it always was: without a sacred center to bring unity, mankind breaks up, corporately and personally. People who center their identities around race or nationality or politics or sexual preference or sports team…are basically demonstrating that they are empty in the middle, and they are trying to fill that hole with some kind of meaning.

So if you’re here today and you’re looking at your life and you’re realizing that your heart is sick with resentment against some other ethnicity, some other culture, some other group that seems to be higher or lower status than you, if you find yourself obsessed with your own identity and struggling to love those who are different from you —

Well, if you’re not yet a Christian, then you need to do this: turn to the Tree of Life, the cross of Christ. Eat from it. Be joined to it through baptism. And I promise you that, as Christ becomes the sacred center of your life, that sickeness, that resentment, that obsession with identity will fade away. You will discover that you have brothers and sisters in every nation of the world! — and I’m telling you, it’s great! You should try it.

But if you’re already a Christian, and the Spirit has been opening your eyes to the fact that you do harbour some kind of tribalism in your heart, then do this: repent, and ask Jesus to forgive you. Then, ask him to take this sin away from you and kill it. He will, I promise you! He will cut into you — like a skillful surgeon — and remove that cancer. And one of the best ways to cope with the pain of that spiritual surgery is to fix your mind on this truth: Jesus is the only sacred center of the earth. Not race. Not religion. Not theology. Not politics. Nothing else. All these distinctives that we think are important enough to hate each other over — are not. Jesus is the only true center. He is the only thing worth dividing over.

And we are going to talk even more about these things next week, when we reveal that great crisis in the east. But for now, let’s leave with this encouragement, this Good News:

If you are a Christian — a person baptised into a covenant relationship with Christ and with his Church — then you are living, even now, in the garden of Eden. The living presence of God is right here, among us, within us. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we live at the sacred center of the world, because we carry that sacred center with us! This is the reality, whether we “feel it” or not!

And what this Good News means, very practically speaking, is that even though we are all infected with the sin of tribalism, racism, ethnocentrism — somehow the Spirit of God is still going out from us into all the nations, and drawing them in to worship with us here! And somehow, somehow they are finding a home here among us even though we are sometimes not the most welcoming of people.

And, friends, that is truly a work of God alone!

So let’s praise him for that, and let’s rest in the joy of this amazing diversity.

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