Babylon is more than just an end-time power. As the "great city" it symbolizes all the evil powers that have ever dominated the earth. In the Greek of Revelation 17:18 Babylon "is" the great city that "has rulership" over the kings of the earth. This combination of a present tense verb with a present participle ("has rulership") is one of he most continuous expressions possible in the Greek. It means that Babylon rules constantly and ceaselessly over the kings of the earth. The principles of Babylon lie behind all the powers in earth's history that try to coerce and exploit people.
Babylon can rear its ugly head in surprising places. Israelite law required slaveholders to provide freed slaves with resources so they could build their own lives (Deut. 15:13, 14). But freed slaves in America never received the promised "forty acres and a mule." While the Northern states ended slavery through the Civil War, the freed slaves themselves lacked the land to become self-sufficient in the agricultural South. Many freed slaves became virtual debt slaves on the same estates on which they had once worked in bondage.
In the early twentieth century millions of rural Southern Blacks moved to Northern cities, hoping to find employment and to escape segregation. What they met instead was a new kind of segregation known as "White flight." As the Whites left the inner city they took their money with them, resulting in today's urban ghettoes. While slavery ended nearly 150 years ago, those born into the ghetto have automatic educational and economic disadvantages. Such disadvantages stem from conscious choices made by our ancestors on economic rather than ethical grounds.
Am I responsible for the sins and injustices of my ancestors? The Bible seems to answer yes (Rev. 18:4-7; Matt. 23:29-36). To ignore these disparities because "I had nothing to do with it" is like a baseball team cheating into the ninth inning and then saying, "OK, we'll play fair for the rest of the game!" Christians must be willing to do something but what is it?
Race-based reparations may not be the answer. As John Perkins (an African-American preacher) jokes: "Many poor people would immediately buy an expensive car, and the rich people would have their money back!" But we can invest our time and money in needy communities. We can fined ways to empower the poor to build their own lives.
Lord, give me a heart to see the need of another the way You view it. Fill me with the courage and the sacrificial willingness to do something about it.