Foundations for Our Common Humanity: The truth of our incontrovertible connection and planned destiny
Written by Ganoune Diop, PhD., director of the Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and secretary-general of the International Religious Liberty Association.
The Bible opens with the creation of one humanity. Ethnic differentiations and divisions are constructs meant to erode the truth of a deeper identity and unity of one human family.
For All Humanity
If the story of Adam and Eve is truly the foundation of all humanity’s common ancestry, then it follows that valuing systems in the form of stratifications and hierarchicalisms prevalent in human societies and relations are a manifestation of evil. They have no legitimate justification in the way God meant the human family to relate to one another.
Some have read the Bible to justify the alleged inferiority of segments of the human family, especially black people or supposed people of color in general. They refer to the curse of Ham and the division of his children as eponymous ancestors of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. This reading conspicuously bypasses the fact that even these three have the same father, Noah; in other words, they and their descendants belong to the same family.
Obviously one must factor in the fact that Noah himself is a descendant of Adam. The story of the curse of black people is a myth that has no foundation in Genesis 9.1
The table of nations of Genesis 10 is not the starting point of the story of humans; Genesis 1 is.
Adam and Eve were created in the image of God with infinite dignity. There is no degree in dignity. All human beings by virtue of being created in the image of God are endowed with human dignity. In fact, this is the foundation for the imperative to respect every person. It is also the foundation of human rights and human security, in terms of the protection of every person’s physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual integrity. The dignity bestowed upon all at creation means that no human being should be violated in any of the dimensions of their being.
Understanding the sanctity of human life and the sacredness of human conscience are foundational to how we should think of every human being. The value of human life is further illustrated by the solidarity God expresses in Scripture: “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker” (Prov. 14:31; cf. Prov. 17:5). Jesus’ own words show the depth of God’s identification with the human family: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:40). God identifies with humanity. He wants to save all people and bring them to the knowledge of the truth (see 1 Tim. 2:1-4).
The Divine Mission
The overarching purpose of the history of salvation is redemption of the whole human family; the re-creation of a new humanity in Christ Jesus. This is the reason Jesus is the new Adam and all those who are in Christ have joined a new human family bonded in God. They are truly brothers and sisters in Christ.
The apostle Paul is explicit regarding the unity in Christ. In Galatians 3:28, 29 he states, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Christ came to restore the oneness of the human family in Him. He came to create a new humanity.
In John 11 the overarching goal that Jesus came to achieve was revealed with the unwitting stamp of prophecy from the high priest Caiaphas: “He prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad (John 11:51, 52).
Christ came to redeem our story of fallenness, brokenness, and divisiveness, and transform it into a story of reunion, restoration, healing, and wholeness.
Christ came to reunite the whole human family into one. In the gospel of God, the unity Jesus prayed for is the gathering together into one. It is the divine mission of Jesus.
In Ephesians the unity of the whole universe is in focus. Ephesians 1:9, 10 states, “Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” This mystery is God’s overarching purpose. It is to put everything, the whole creation, under the leadership of Jesus Christ.
The mystery is about the reign or the kingly rule of Christ, based on God’s kingship, expressed in the kingdom of God. That is the content of the gospel, or good news.
Only Christ is Lord. He is the only leader. The archēgos (archleader), who brings or leads to salvation, and the prodromos (the one who opens the way; literally, the one who runs before the others to show the way), says Hebrews 2:10 and 6:20.
This is the true sense of genuine Christian unity. This unity is not manufactured by human ingenuity. True Christian unity is unity in Christ. Under one leader, one Lord, Jesus Christ. Not under a human being, a spirit or an angel or any human dignitary. Just Christ alone (solus Christus).
This spiritual unity should set the determination for the unity among human beings and among nations who recognize the sovereignty of God.
The division of the human family into races has no biological justification. It is a construct meant to sow seeds of discord and dominions. Racism, tribalism, and ethnocentrism are instruments of evil. Expressions of crimes against the one humanity.
The root cause of all human predicaments is the fact that because of sin there are breaches in the walls of the reality of human existence. Evil has infiltrated the whole ecosystem of human experience. All the human family is affected because of the consequences of the intrusion and pervasive presence of evil.
So Jesus taught us to pray for deliverance from evil (Matt. 6:13). In His own priestly prayer Jesus prayed for us: “ I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).
God’s one solution is the gospel. This is the good news of the restoration in humans of the image of God and freedom to have access to the fellowship and worship of the Creator. The gospel is always about the Savior, who can accomplish such a salvation.
It is of interest to note that the current aspirations of the nations that form the United Nations are encapsulated in the three pillars of this international organization. The pillars are:
Peace and security.
Justice and development.
Human rights in terms of freedom from want and fear, and freedom to live in dignity.
The overarching Christian contribution to the aspirations of the whole human family is simply the gospel. The foundations of the new humanity are contained in the gospel: the gospel of God (Mark 1:14; Rom. 1:1; 15:16); the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Rom. 1:9); the good news of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15); the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4). The gospel, as Paul describes it in Galatians 1:6-8, is the “grace of Christ”: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (ESV).
The gospel is the good news of your salvation (Eph. 1:13); it is the “gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15); the gospel of the righteousness of Jesus Christ freely given to all who covenant with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:16). The gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. . . . In it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’ ” (Rom. 1:16, ESV). The gospel is the good news that the Lamb of God, whom John identified as Jesus (John 1:29), has conquered. It is the gospel of the blessed hope of the second coming of Jesus Christ. The gospel of the restoration of universal and cosmic harmony when Jesus returns as He promised in John 14 and in the book of Revelation. The latter is the last promise of the last book of the Bible.
The Distinctive Nature of the Gospel
John the Baptist, as a precursor for the announcement of the new humanity the Messiah had come to form, had a threefold message:
1. A call to repentance.
2. An announcement of judgment and its accompanying warning.
3. The advent of a Savior, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
The precondition for the reception of the gospel or the consequences for rejecting the gospel are not the gospel. The gospel is about the Savior and His offer of freedom. In Luke 4:18, 19 Jesus defined His ministry in terms of freedom:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
The whole human family is invited to accept the good news of the advent of the Savior.
Those who receive the good news and are born again join a new human family (cf. John 1:12, 13). That is the good news of a new humanity, delivered from the old creation dominated by sin and infected by evil. “If anyone is in Christ,” Paul writes, “he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17-20).
The eternal gospel of Revelation 14 that we are called to share is the best antidote against the fragmentation of the human family. Of the gospel, in the context of Revelation 14, Ellen White writes:
“The message proclaimed by the angel flying in the midst of heaven is the everlasting gospel, the same gospel that was declared in Eden when God said to the serpent, ‘I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). Here was the first promise of a Savior who would stand on the field of battle to contest the power of Satan and prevail against him.”2
Revelation 14’s gospel is apparently the protoevangelium, the first gospel of the promise of a Savior who will deliver the seed of the woman by defeating the serpent as per Genesis 3:15. Christ’s second coming will then put an end to the activity of Satan and the deception of wickedness.
So the gospel is the prophecy and the promise of Christ, who defeats the serpent. This was the first good news. The first advent of Christ, in the birth of the Messiah, the Savior as announced in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:10, 11), was the good news of the first advent.
What the Bible calls the everlasting gospel as proclaimed in the three angels’ messages is inseparable from freedom. This final gospel is the good news of total freedom. It is the final exodus and deliverance from all oppressors, evils, and evil itself.
All Things New
A deeper and more comprehensive study of the book of Revelation would reveal a compelling connection between the book of Revelation and the themes of the book of Exodus. Suffice it here to mention that in the first chapter of the book of Revelation the following elements show that the experience of God’s end-time people is patterned after the liberation/Exodus Israel experienced when delivered from oppression in Egypt.
1. The revelation of God’s name to Moses.
2. The blood of the lamb on the doorposts as a token of faith for the redeemed Israelites.
3. The constitution of God’s people into a kingdom of priests.
God’s reason for the Exodus was so that the children of Israel could worship Him, thereby forming a worshipping community.
These features are the beginning of the book of Revelation and set the stage for the pilgrimage of God’s people from oppression, domination, persecution, and martyrdom to total freedom from evil.
In the first covenant God created a people who experienced liberation from oppression. They were graced with the Exodus, which for the children of Israel marked the existence of a new people of God, a people of priests. They sang the song of Moses.
In the last proclamation of the everlasting good news, the redeemed are described as standing upon the sea of glass mixed with fire. “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3). We are invited to experience the final exodus. The everlasting good news of total freedom to have access to God’s presence, in gratitude, worship, and eternal fellowship with God. That is the destiny of the new humanity in Christ.
“And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful’ ” (Rev. 21:3-5).
A new humanity, a new environment, and a new atmosphere where freedom, holiness, righteousness, peace, and joy will dwell forever.
1 Gene Rice (“The Curse That Never Was [Genesis 9:18-27],” in Suzanne Scholz, Biblical Studies Alternatively: An Introductory Reader [Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2003], p. 217) wrote that “of all the passages of the Bible none is more infamous than Genesis 9:18-27. Many a person has used this text to justify to himself and others his prejudice against people of African descent. Indeed, it has been widely used to claim divine sanction for slavery and segregation. Often the location of the passage is unknown, and one is not familiar with the details, [but] with the certainty of unexamined truth it is asserted that the Bible speaks of a curse on black people. And this notion has exercised so powerful an influence precisely because its adherents by and large have been ‘good church people.’ While the hey-day of this understanding of Genesis 9:18-27 was during the last and early part of this century, it persists to this day.” See also Ganoune Diop, “ ‘Curse of Ham’ or Blessing of God? Autopsy of a Tenacious Myth” (unpublished paper available upon request).
2 Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980), book 2, p. 106. (Italics supplied.)