Imagine with John Lennon
On this 25th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon, which also happens to be my 54th birthday, I invite you to "imagine" along with John and me: "Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try/No hell below us, above us only sky./Imagine all the people living for today.... You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one./I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one."
What would it be like if heaven and hell didn't exist? And if they didn't exist, then Jesus Christ would never have been born; what would the world be like if that were true? Would we be better off? Would the world truly "live as one" if Christ and His religion had never come along?
D. James Kennedy has written an excellent book that explores just these hypotheticals: What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? He explores all of the benefits that Jesus and His followers have brought to the world. These include:
- Literacy and education for the masses
- Abolition of slavery, both in antiquity and in more modern times
- Modern science
- The elevation of women
- Benevolence and charity; the good Samaritan ethic
- The elevation of the common person
- The condemnation of adultery, homosexual practices, and sexual perversions of many kinds, which has helped to preserve the human race
- The codifying and setting to writing of many of the world's languages
- Greater development of art and music, including the inspiration for many of the greatest works of art
- The countless changed lives transformed from liabilities into assets to society because of the gospel
Yet Kennedy also doesn't shy away from the tough issues, like the bloodshed of the crusades, the tortures of the Spanish Inquisition, and Christian anti-semitism. It's a good read; I highly recommend it.
For myself, I don't even attempt to defend everything that has operated on this planet under the aegis of Jesus Christ; I freely admit that much of it has been abominable. "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light," the Apostle has said in 2 Corinthians 11:14. Like Kennedy, I believe we must distinguish between Christianity and "Christendom." The former is defensible; the latter often isn't.
I just wonder, however, can anyone really imagine that the world would be better off without Jesus? Nearly all of the criticism I hear (hypocrisy, greed, sectarian "holy wars," etc.) is against those who aren't really following Him. If you removed Christ and Christian influence from the world, the result would be a nightmare a million times worse than what happens in Frank Capra's film, "It's a Wonderful Life," when the angel shows George Bailey what his town would have been like if he had never been born.
Jesus wants the world to be one, just like John Lennon did. But He recognized that it needed redemption for the unifying process to take hold. John seemed to think that if we de-Godify the world and leave people to their own devices, they would do the right thing and unify in peace, brotherhood, and sisterhood. I don't think so.
Even those who can't bring themselves to believe in God or in His Son have plenty of evidence to believe in the existence of evil. Christianity did not cause it, that's for sure. When people practice the Christianity Jesus announced and the primitive church implemented, the world gets better, more loving, less violent and abusive, brighter with hope.
Maybe if John hadn't been gunned down on December 8, 1980, he would have changed his mind about what causes the world's turmoil, and what dispels it. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). A better promise, given by the Prince of Peace Himself, is hard to imagine.
Steve Singleton, DeeperStudy.com