“What would be different in the world if everyone spoke the same language?
I stumbled upon the question as I made my way through Eugene Peterson’s The Daily Message. Today I read Genesis 10-11 which, of course, covers the period after the great flood including the Tower of Babel.
It was at Babel the people appeared to unite around a common goal of building a tower reaching to the heavens. Scriptures tell us God ultimately confused the language of the people, the work failed, and people scattered throughout the earth. It’s a peculiar and confusing incident (see what I did there).
The question lingered, “What would be different in the world if everyone spoke the same language?”
I like to travel and my journeys include places like Nepal, Zambia, Liberia, Croatia, and Israel. Each people group has a unique language and each language often has multiple dialects. Even when I travel in the US and visit the beautiful Lakota people in South Dakota I discover a new language. The first idea that popped into my head when I read the question was, “It would be kind of boring.”
I know, it can be challenging when you don’t know the local language. Even so, there is an excitement and a wonder that comes from stepping into the unknown and finding ways to communicate. On a recent trip to Nepal I embraced the adventure of heading out on my own into the vast city of Kathmandu. Naturally, I went to some familiar places where I knew people spoke at least some English. But on purpose, I entered local businesses where I knew it would be a different experience. Talk about fun! I learned the local terms for items like laundry soap and cookies, plus the added benefit of how to say please and thank you. It was Ramro.
I recall another time we had friends from Zambia visiting our church in South Dakota. I closed the service that day with this blessing, “Leza ameleleke.’ The joy on our guest’s faces was priceless. And in that moment, I was Zambian in their eyes.
And yes I remember the time in Croatia when a member of our team thought he was saying, “I am happy to meet you” when in reality he was saying, “I am sorry to meet you.” What a great story to tell as the people he met helped him to know the difference. Twenty years later I can still picture the scene as we all laughed together.
So I am going to stick with my first answer. The world would be kind of boring if everyone spoke the same language. Besides, it fills me with expectation as I imagine what it will sound like on the day when people from every nation, tribe, people and language gather before our great Savior, Jesus Christ.
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