“Imagine there’s no heaven . . . It’s easy if you try . . . No hell below us . . .”
Such are the opening words of the opening track of John Lennon’s Imagine album that was released in 1971. Lennon’s desire was to help the human race recognize its oneness apart from the barriers that so often accompany greed, politics and religion. Noble thoughts for sure, but certainly misguided without the centrality of Jesus Christ.
Imagine another thought with me if you will—one of a world in which forgiveness did not exist.
Imagine yourself holding bitterness and anger toward every person who has hurt you even a little throughout the course of your life. Would you have any friends? How long could a marriage possibly last? Can you picture the holiday gatherings?
Imagine everyone that you have ever hurt being bitter toward you. Has there ever been someone you have let down? Forgotten about? Offended? Looked at the wrong way? Imagine the same for everyone who even thought that you intended them ill will.
If forgiveness could not take place between us as individuals, our world would be even further than it is from John Lennon’s dream. How long would friendships last? What would hold communities together? War would never cease.
Now imagine that there was no forgiveness for your sins. Any and every thing that you’ve ever done to offend God (or hurt another person) would be held against you forever. The effects of every moral failure perpetual. Guilt eternal.
In a world without forgiveness would happiness or joy exist to any degree at all? Would words such as freedom, family and brotherhood have any meaning?
All of this speaks of darkness. Miserable, cold darkness. No happy thoughts. No joyful days. No pleasant memories. Only darkness. Miserable, cold, barren darkness.
Perhaps, somehow, the contrast between the warm light of love and the cold darkness of bitterness provides us with a small taste of the heaven and hell that all of our imagining can never eliminate.
Lennon was right in one regard. We are all connected and the manner in which we relate to each other has far reaching effects. Those who learn to walk in God’s love and forgiveness become sources of light all across the globe. Those who hold onto bitterness serve only to deepen the darkness that already exists.
What is your personal contribution to the landscape of our world? What are you growing in the hidden spaces of your heart?
I believe that most of my readers would readily choose light over darkness. But to live in the light, we must be light. And being light is impossible without learning to both receive and confer the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.