The Humbling of Kingdom Builders

And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4)

On March 30th, the devotional was about the arrogant king of Assyria and how God dealt with his prideful ways. If you recall, the king used the terms “I” and “me” 8 times in just two verses. Today we find such arrogance and pride, not just in one person, but in many. They are full of “us”, “ourselves”, and “we”.

This is in the story of the Tower of Babel. The people wanted to build their own kingdom; making their own “name” for themselves. Rather than looking to the Lord, they would look to themselves.

Is it possible that a group of Christian people could fall into a similar type of arrogance or pride? Could “we” build something that is all about us?

Several years ago, in my duties with Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry, I was speaking with a precious person who was very supportive of this work. When I mentioned that I would be most willing to speak at his church, his response shocked me: “I am sorry father, but you would not be welcomed at my church. You are not of my ethnicity and the people would not welcome you. The service is all done in our language without a word of English.”

Another time, I was asked to speak at a church and noticed all of the people were of one ethnicity. I asked some of the folks if they were reaching out to the local community. Again, the answer shocked me: “Outsiders are not welcome here because we want our sons and daughters to only marry within our own ethnicity.”

When we build our own “kingdom”, we forget that “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son” (John 3:16). The Lord’s final words to His followers before He ascended was to take His message to the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Oh, my dear brothers and sister, let us have churches that open up their hearts to love all who come through our doors and welcome them. The story of the Tower of Babel ends with God putting an end to the “kingdom” the people were building for themselves. It is a truth well worth remembering. If we try to build a “kingdom” that is only for “us”, it will ultimately fail. The true Kingdom of God is for everyone, not just “us”.

By your prayers…as we continue our Journey,

Fr. Stephen 

2 replies on “The Humbling of Kingdom Builders”

Then what do we do about jurisdictions which insist on using their ethnic name in the church name – Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox Outside Russia, Bulgarian Orthodox, and so on? To me they are saying, we only want people who are Greek or Russians living abroad or Bulgarians, etc. What do we say to those who see these signs and think, I am not Greek, not Russian living abroad, and so on? These jurisdictions seem to want only those of their traditions and no one else. Did the Orthodox Church expand to the West to provide Orthodoxy to others or to make Greeks, Russians, etc., of people living in the West?

Thanks for your comments. This has been something for many to deal with in welcoming strangers to their parish. Most of the parishes with this issue were established many years ago when the immigrant folks were getting a church started in their area. They just naturally attached that identification to the name. Today, it is up to the people of those parishes to reach out to their friends and neighbors to let them know that their church is for everyone. There are bishops who have given permission to their parishes to remove the ethnic part of their name. Also there are bishops have encouraged parishes to transition to all (or mostly all) English in their services. This is especially true in the western part of our country. So, much progress has been made in this area and it is continuing to improve. The future of Orthodoxy in America is getting brighter all the time.

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