The Pentecost story in Acts is a beautiful display of God’s value for multi-culturalism and diversity. In Acts 2, God faced a challenge. His son had been crucified, was risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. And God wanted the world to know about it. At that time there were people from all over the known world in Jerusalem. The problem was, they all spoke different languages. If everyone was to hear the Good News, this language problem needed to be solved.
Now, I assume for the Creator of the Universe, performing one miracle is no more difficult than performing another miracle. So God literally had a choice to make. He could have either allowed everyone in Jerusalem to speak Greek or Hebrew, or he could allow his disciples to speak the languages of the nations. Either miracle would have solved the language problem. So we can assume that God made his choice based on the values he wanted to instill in this new body of believers.
Allowing all the people to understand Greek or Hebrew would have given birth to a single language, hierarchical and assimilated church. The Gospel would have clearly belonged to the group whose language God chose. And the Church would have been unified through their common language and soon to be assimilated culture. Language is one of the best tools to pass on, teach and even destroy culture. By picking a single language, culture and people, eventually the Church would have been fully assimilated to that group. So it is telling that God instead chose to allow the disciples to speak the languages of the nations.
This choice had nearly the opposite effect. Instead of creating a single language, hierarchical and assimilated church, God instead planted a church where the Gospel belonged to everyone. There was no hierarchy. There was no chosen group. And no cultural assimilation was required or expected. When the people heard the good news in their own language the assumption was that this message was for them, their culture and their people. They could come to Christ as who they were.
In fact, this message was so clear, that a little while later, when the Greek widows were being overlooked in the distribution of food they felt completely comfortable to point out the problem. Had the Gospel been shared with them in Hebrew, it would had been easier to assume that the Church was primarily for the Jews and everyone else was second class. It would have made sense why they were overlooked–because they were second rate members in the cultural hierarchy of this new Hebrew church. But they weren’t. They heard the message in their own language. They were full members of this body just as much as the next person.
I praise God for Pentecost–not only for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Bride of Christ, but also because God planted the Act 2 community in such a way that validated and gave ownership of the Gospel to people from every language, every culture, every tribe, and every people. The church was never meant to be an assimilated melting pot, where eventually everything and everyone blends together. The church was meant to be a mosaic. A vibrant colorful and diverse body where every member, every language, and every culture is necessary and adds to the beauty of the whole.