May the words of my mouth and intent of my heart be nourishment to those who listen and hear.
The story of the Tower of Babel is probably more relevant today than when it is said to have historically taken place.
There was mankind, in the cradle of civilization, with such wonderfully rich and varied cultures and traditions, with everyone speaking the same language and working toward a common goal (remember the tower reaching to heaven from your childhood lessons). Mesopotamia was the cradle for humanity, a land of milk and honey.
Close your eyes and imagine the variety of colorful dress, exotic smells and exuberance of a people working together; each and every citizen speaking the same language, worshipping the same way.
But, alas, the Creator knew the world would not be populated if people stayed in Babylon. And NOTHING would be denied them if they continued to work together as one. So the people were scattered to the four winds that the world might be populated. . . each society:
developing a different language that others could not understand practicing a religion foreign to others, but still worshiping the same Holy Spirit/Creator.
Yet not everything was lost from those days in Mesopotamia:
- One basic tenet remained a common thread through each new culture, writing and philosophy.
For the Christian culture, and many others, this ‘universal message’, regardless of the language, was the same. Over time this message became known as ‘The Golden Rule’. No matter the culture or the language, the message is the same:
Do Unto Others as you would have others do unto you (Matthew 7:12).
This IS the universal message of behavior and interaction for humanity, regardless of culture, language, religion or geography.
Almost everyone, even those with minimal exposure to religious foundations, have heard of The Golden Rule. It may be called by many names but the basic concept remains the same, no matter how you say it. This concept, commonly called The Golden Rule in Christianity or the Ethic of Reciprocity in Judaism, is found in the holy writings of nearly every religion. It is often regarded as the most concise and central principle of ethics.
“Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.”
We may forget that Islam in the Qur’an professes
“No, none of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.”
Hinduism believes that
“One should not behave toward others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire.”
Tsekung once asked of Confucius:
“Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?” Confucius replied, “It is the word shu – reciprocity. Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.”
The Oracle of Itsukushima, a Shinto, affirms that
“Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness. Those who do not abandon mercy will not be abandoned by me.”
The great Buddhist Khuddaka Patha, taught
“As a mother with her own life guards the life of her own child, let all embracing thoughts for all that lives be thine.”
However today, many cultures and religions seem to have forgotten that common thread that does INDEED run through their history.
“We are all children of the same Holy Spirit, and we must treat each other as we wish to be treated.”
It is enlightening to know that even in the earliest African cultures, so alien to some other traditional religious beliefs, they espouse a Golden Rule. A Yoruba Proverb from Nigeria says
“One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.”
(this is my personal favorite – there is NO misunderstanding in this one!)
Differences in language, culture, appearance and geography have created a false perception that we are no longer one people; that we may no longer need to observe the timeless ethics of humanity. That we no longer need to work together for the common good. Yet like our ancestors in Mesopotamia, we are ONE people, regardless of geography or faith beliefs. And we inhabit an increasingly smaller and smaller planet together. We MUST work together as one to make this world a better place for EVERYONE!
We, as people of faith, MUST remember that. We need to think of those precepts in all human interaction. Especially with anyone who how may:
- look different
worship differently or not at all
speak another language
whose way of life is foreign to us.
The purpose of this service is to remind each and every one of us that:
- – We are ALL children of the Creator, Holy Spirit
– Each man is our brother
– Each woman is our sister
– Every child is our child.
God/Holy Spirit/the Creator who made us with our differences loves us all.
How can we do less?
As we ponder that question, let us say prayers for our many communities, that by saying these prayers we may be open to the Holy Spirit.
Delivered at The Shepherd Initiative Memorial Service for Victims of Crimes Against Humanity, Columbus, OH, 15 October 2004