John Lennon released a song in 1971 that still resounds today, even among those born after that time. People are attracted to the idea of “a brotherhood of man,” “nothing to kill or die for,” and hoping “the world will be as one.” However, his original intent was more of an atheistic, socialistic utopia, as expressed in lines like “imagine there’s no heaven…and no religion too” and “imagine no possessions.” His dream could never work that way, but he was seeking something that is possible, though he had no idea how.
The message of Christ is not the establishment of political rule or even social revolution. It is rebirth of the spirit and renewal of the human heart. When applied on a mass scale, the implications are beyond anything we could dream. Lennon correctly identified the problems of war, greed, and suffering, but sought the solution in the wrong place.
Imagine for a moment that everyone loved their neighbor as themselves. Suffering would almost disappear. Sickness and natural disaster would occur, but the response for those victims would be comfort, care, and prayer. Those that do suffer would not suffer alone.
Now imagine that we forgave as Jesus decreed. Though legitimate disagreements would still occur, the result would not be violence. In Christ, murder and aggression are condemned. The renewed heart of a believer chooses forbearance and forgiveness. War would be gone. At worst, peaceful division would remain.
Imagine if we looked after widows and orphans in their distress; if we not only looked out for our own interests, but also the interests of others; if we saw a need and fulfilled it. The reborn heart does that, not through government fiat, but godly fervor.
As I’ve travelled the world, especially in areas of great need, I have noticed that the number one cause of human suffering and conflict is not due to so-called “acts of God.” It is due to human corruption. Whether at the highest levels of power or at the lowest level of an individual, it always comes back to the heart of man. Human trafficking is the direct result of a sinful desire. War is the result of greed, unforgiveness, division, and hatred, at least on the part of one side. A lack of food or clean water is usually related to a lack of compassion and proper management.
Even natural disasters, such as drought or flood, would have far less impact if corruption was eradicated. Consider the drought in California as compared to the one in Angola. In America, we have the infrastructure and effort to take food and water to those in the parched areas, so they not only survive, but continue to thrive. In Angola, war devastated the infrastructure. Corruption has prevented it from rebuilding. The resulting poverty makes food and water scarce. And the efforts to help, though measurably large, are still small as a fraction of what could be done. There is enough food, water, technology, and innovation to provide the basics for everyone on earth, but it takes a Christ-like mindset.
This is why humanitarian efforts, though noble and necessary, will never succeed without the gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot and should not force our faith on anyone – it’s impossible since it requires internal, individual transformation only accomplished by the Holy Spirit – but we can actively and purposely demonstrate our faith everywhere.
Imagine if Christ followers spent every waking moment spreading the kingdom of God on earth. Imagine if “Thy will be done” motivated our every action. Imagine if the world really knew we were Christians because of our love.
Now let’s stop imagining and go do it.