Imagine a World without Forgiveness

“Imagine there’s no heaven . . . It’s easy if you try . . . No hell below us . . .”

Photo by LifeHouseDesign (Flickr) - Creative Commons License 2.0

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.

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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.

Photo by natepowers - MorgueFile

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.

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11 thoughts on “Imagine a World without Forgiveness

  1. Noble thoughts for sure, but certainly misguided without the centrality of Jesus Christ.

    Maybe. What Lennon was saying is that religion — including the Christian religion — is the cause of tremendous strife throughout history. This isn’t really disputed.

    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.

    And humans would have never evolved to the point we are now, so really, the point you’re trying to make is academic in the extreme.

    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.

    This presumes the existence of a god who is offended by something called sin. As both can’t be demonstrated with any level of certainty, or even defined, I think it’s quite easy to imagine.

    Those who learn to walk in God’s love and forgiveness become sources of light all across the globe.

    I think people who simply learn to walk in love and forgiveness period become sources of light all across the globe. I notice that many who claim to walk in a god’s love and forgiveness actually spread hatred and judgment.

    And being light is impossible without learning to both receive and confer the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

    If by “being light” you mean treating others as you would have them treat you, I don’t see how this forgiveness you allude to is necessary.

    1. Robert, comments like yours break my heart. But I don’t say this as a derogatory statement toward you. Allow me to explain.

      Based on my post and your comments, my outstanding grasp of the obvious tells me that we’ve each tasted something different with regards to Christianity. I have tasted and experienced the amazing and faithful love of God and I continue to be drawn to that love.

      You have tasted something bitter that you reject because of its offensiveness. I can’t blame you for that. When I survey world history I am extremely bothered by all that has been done in the name of religion. Even more troublesome is the horrendous, unChristlike example set by so many who have professed Christ. If that was the sum total of the Christian faith, I hope that I would be intelligent enough to reject it as well.

      This is what I find heart rending. The poor example of some (or even many) has served to steer so many people from a real and dynamic relationship with their benevolent Creator. In my mind, their hypocrisy only serves to further highlight our need for a Savior who both forgives and transforms.

      I don’t expect you to simply take my word as the evidence of God’s goodness. But I would challenge you to dig deeper. To search out the life of Christ and the heart of His teachings. To look around and recognize that for centuries Christians all over the world have sacrificially given themselves for the sake of humanity. All I can say is that there really is more to the story and that if you have a passion for truth, it is worth your effort to dig deeper. bob

    2. >>>Maybe. What Lennon was saying is that religion — including the Christian religion — is the cause of tremendous strife throughout history. This isn’t really disputed<<<

      I would say that this statement is most definitely disputed. when people say this, it's as if there never was a war before there was a religion. if history tells us anything, it's that evil people will use any excuse to kill people. Government has been the cause of more killing, BY FAR, than all other reasons put together x a million. perhaps we should do away with government, of course to do that, we would need a single universal government that will kill everyone who is opposed to it.

      perhaps we should repeat recent history and follow the lead of those who have used the "imagine" mantra to build a wall around their countries to keep people from escaping their murderous tyranny as they imagine a world without religion, and Christianity especially.

      check this video out; they do a good job with this question.

      http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2686619685519923403&hl=en

      1. Steve, thanks for your input! I can’t begin imagine where this world would be if it weren’t for the life of Christ. So much of even the “secular” good in our world can find its roots in Christ’s loving example. I’ve been contemplating on doing some sort of a blog series on this topic. We’ll see what the future holds.

      2. I would say that this statement is most definitely disputed. when people say this, it’s as if there never was a war before there was a religion

        Not at all; you’re attacking a straw man. The sources of war, strife, conflict are many – and Christianity is among them. That is the point that cannot be disputed.

        Christians like searchforme claim we can determine Christ-like behavior from unChrist-like. But these determinations are always made long after the fact.

        I have little doubt that the practices and views of today’s “Body of Christ” (as if there were really such a thing) will be condemned by Christians in the future as unChrist-like. The only question is how long it will take them to do it.

      3. Robert, once again I appreciate your input but I don’t think I could disagree with you more about this part of your comment:

        Christians like searchforme claim we can determine Christ-like behavior from unChrist-like. But these determinations are always made long after the fact.

        Over the years I have personally seen many situations where we were able to make a clear determination between Christlike and un-Christlike behavior at that very time. Right now, in fact, I have a couple of friends who have shown an amazing measure of love toward somebody who did some significant damage to their lives and ministry.

        Part of the problem in all of this is the definition of “Christian.” Through the years it has come to mean almost everything and therefore nothing. From a distance it’s easy to lump all behavior by professing Christians as being representative of Christianity.

        Unity/conflict is a topic that I have been addressing for years and I am sure I am not alone in this. You can check out some of my current posts if you want to dig just a little deeper on this issue. Overall, though, I would encourage you to dig a deeper into your understanding of what Christianity is all about. How I wish all professing Christians lived representative of Christ so that the world could have a more complete perspective, but even in spite of our failure, He is nothing short of amazing!

  2. Bob, your sadness is understandable, but it should come from a different cause. You termed the horrendous examples of evil perpetuated in Christianity’s name throughout history as “unChristlike“. The problem here is that such determinations are only made long after the examples are committed. At the time they were perpetuated, they were deemed in perfect conformance with Christianity. Simply read Augustine’s death penalty rational for “heretics”, Luther’s vile anti-Semitic tract On the Jews and Their Lies, or the myriad number of Christian justifications for slavery.

    What you should be sad about is that your god has not given his followers a fool-proof means to determine Christlike behavior from unChristlike. Rather, he’s created a lot of confusion, as witnessed by Christian history. Perhaps you, right now, are engaged in a belief or behavior that will be condemned as unChristlike by Christians decades or centuries in the future.

    This is such an important point that it bears repeating. Christians have no means to objectively determine Christlike behavior from unChristlike. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, holding their “God hates fags” signs at funerals believe they’re engaged in “Christlike” behavior. Likewise the Quakers, the Mormons, the Methodist, the Baptists, and so on.

    I know Christianity and its theology better than the average Christian. Truly, I’ve investigated it. I also know the doctrines of the major Christian sects. I’ve “dug deeper” and come to the firm conviction that Christianity is a purely man-made construct. Such a view neatly and simply explains why it’s had such a bloody history. To posit an all-powerful, all-loving deity behind it raises far more questions, and, ultimately, makes no sense.

    1. Robert,

      Through the New Testament God does provide a very solid filter by which to determine Christlike behavior. This hasn’t changed through the centuries regardless of popular trends of thought or the short-sightedness of some Christian leaders. God cannot be blamed for man’s blindness or refusal to listen.

      The folks at Westboro Baptist obviously believe that they are in the right, but as a whole the Body of Christ is totally at odds with their actions. That there has been confusion I will not argue, but freedom is messy. In His grand design God has given us the freedom to be wrong–a freedom that none of us wishes to relinquish.

      I’m not sure if you are an atheist or agnostic or what, but out of curiosity–if you were God, how would you have designed things?

  3. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, Bob (a lot people aren’t), but Lennon actually was a Christian. He attended the Anglican church up until he and his wife Yoko Ono were denied marriage in the Church because they were divorced. His was a big believer in Christ but felt that the Christian Church as a whole has become full of hypocrisy. When he made that off-handed remark about being bigger than Jesus, he said in an interview that really no one could be bigger than Jesus, but that unfortunately, the youth were paying more attention to the Beatles than to Christ (a rather interesting prediction about future generations and pop culture). He saw it as an opportunity to turn kids on to Christ. And like many today, he chose to look at other options when he got fed up with the hypocrisy. Just some food for though:-)

  4. >>Not at all; you’re attacking a straw man. The sources of war, strife, conflict are many – and Christianity is among them. That is the point that cannot be disputed.<>I have little doubt that the practices and views of today’s “Body of Christ” (as if there were really such a thing) will be condemned by Christians in the future as unChrist-like. The only question is how long it will take them to do it<<

    yep, it's a classic example.

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