A few weeks ago we remembered the 30th anniversary of the passing of John Lennon. As we remember his tragic death so close to Christmas, I remember the songs of peace that Lennon sang. Happy Christmas (War is Over) is a song of reflection on the year soon to be gone and of hope for a good one to come ‘without any fear’.
Peace on earth seems a long way away as another Christmas comes around. Another song of Lennon’s, perhaps his most famous, Imagine, speaks of a world which many of us dream of. Earlier this year I wrote my own piece about a world which I also believe many of us would all love to see. This Christmas seems a good time to post it again. Call it a response to John Lennon – ‘Imagine part II’. This is what the Son of God came into the world to bring.
Let’s dream a little. Imagine living in a world where peace, justice and love are the order of the day; a world where everyone is accepted just for who they are and where there is no anxiety, fear or mistrust. Then imagine that the ruler of this world had all of these characteristics and more. Because this ruler is like this, let’s call him God.
This is a God who longs for his people to be in relationship with him, and not just that, but God longs for his whole creation to be renewed. In this world there is ultimate trust because the ruler is ultimately trustworthy. Therefore it is a world where you love the fact that God is in charge. You realise that this God is both ultimate and intimate. God is both ruler of everything and yet knows and loves each of his creatures with a dignity we cannot comprehend.
Now imagine that this world is not just a far-off hope, but that it has already begun to be put into place. That’s what Jesus of Nazareth came to do. Jesus was God coming to earth, and every part of his life here was a pointer to this new world. It is not yet fully realised, but he is the one who kicked things off. He pulled back the curtain to show us a bit of what it will be like when everything is made complete.
And this Jesus has invited you to be a part of bringing in this new world. Never mind the kind of life you may have lived. Jesus has forgiven you all of that and wants you now to enjoy his presence and be a part of helping him prepare for the full realisation of this new world. What this means is that this world is within your grasp. What’s more, you will never be alone in this new world, for you will be with others who share the same dream as you. You will know what real connection is, with others and with this God. This is God’s new community and it starts here and now. This is a world run by a God who offers not just social transformation, but personal transformation as well. But it calls for your total commitment and sacrifice.
So if you’re tired of the way this current world is, and tired of the way your life is going, this Jesus invites you to a new way of living. It is counter-cultural and asks you to turn your back on everything our current world says is valuable. This new world is open to the lowly, the vulnerable, the poor, the outcast, and even to people like us who, let’s face it, have been rotten in a lot of ways. Because this way of living, this new world, has already begun with Jesus, every act of kindness, every act of love, however little or large, matters to this God. He sees it all, because you are preparing the way for when this new world will be fully consummated.
This is a world run by a God who offers not just social transformation, but personal, inner transformation as well. This is the dream that many people throughout history have had, people like Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa, and going further back, people like Francis of Assisi. And you can be a part of it. It calls for your total commitment and sacrifice. For many who are part of this movement, it is very very difficult. But in the end it is worth it, because in a strange way you will know that this has been what you have been looking for all your life. In some unexplainable way you will know that you are home with others in God’s new community.
“Imagine” by John Lennon frightens me, it is the idealized world envisioned by modernists, where all resources are shared, people have no hunger or fear and no more need for religion. Sounds like the people who built the tower of babel, that kind of pride. I can’t envision a world that is brought to perfection by human effort because we have so many bad qualities that go along with the good. This does not mean that we should not even try, but I can’t overlook our sinfulness and how even our best intentions are somewhat warped.
Thanks for your response Robin. I totally agree with you that we wil never build the sort of utopia that Lennon dreamed about through sheer human effort. We need a transformation of the human heart as well as a transformation of the world. That is only what God can do. That’s why we are so totally dependent on Him. I love the sentiment of Lennon in this song, but he was misguided in imagining it in a world without religion. Despite the rantings of the New Atheists, people need a sense of the religious in their lives.