I have generalized anxiety disorder. What that means is I worry. A lot. I live in the land of “what if” thinking and have to fight it on a seeming second-to-second basis. I often preach against it because “what if” thinking leads us no where and ultimately spends our best resources on nothing.
There is another kind of “what if” thinking I also do. I am not the only one. In its proper context, “what if” thinking is the language of the dreamer. It is the voice of the visionary. It is the call to address what is to make it what it needs to be. these are the kind of “what ifs” we should focus on.
Dream with me a little while.
There are over 217 “Versions” of Christianity (that are documented) in the United States of America. What if we all just got together? What if we worked together? What if we dropped the division and the trivial differences that set us apart?
What if we all, all 63,000,000 of us got back to the Scriptures as our guide and begin to focus on the greatest commands: Love God. Love others. (Matt. 22:34-40)? What would that change? How would it play out? What would it accomplish?
- Imagine a Church, where instead of divided by politics and vitriolic talking heads we were UNITED as a people who followed the Risen Lord Jesus.
- Imagine a country where the welfare system was no longer needed because Christians rose up to meet those needs as God intended?
- Imagine a place where we relearn that it’s OK to disagree and have different points of view, but that should never separate us or cause us to be unable to dialogue and learn.
- Imagine a church where Christ truly was supreme instead of councils, conventions, figureheads, and headquarters.
- Imagine a church that pooled her nationwide resources not on jets or mega-buildings (though there is nothing wrong with those things when used appropriately) to feed families, clothe needy folks, or provide job training and housing for struggling families?
- Imagine a Church they truly returned to Scripture, examining the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:20-21), and working out our hermeneutic (how you interpret Scripture) not so much as a list of “do’s and don’ts” (though there are some), but rather as an instruction book on how to change the world WITH God instead of presuming arrogance and believing we can change the world FOR Him.
- Imagine a church, that is no longer defined by denominational name, personal loyalties to family, or adherence to rules and practices dictated from a “handbook” or “catechism,” but rather is defined by her love in action, even towards her enemies.
- Imagine a church where people would see us, and therefore see God, knowing with certainty that He is real because they can see it in our interactions with one another and with people who are different from us.
Perhaps I’m insane. Perhaps I’m a daydreamer. Perhaps I’m off my rocker. Perhaps I’m naïve.
I mean based on the current landscape it seems not only impossible, but implausible as well right? I mean how could this actually happen? Is this just a pipe dream? Is this just me ruminating over elementary precepts and notions of an immature believer? Perhaps. But…Jesus didn’t think so.
“20 I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21, ESV)
I think that God gives certain liberties for a person in prayer who is about to die. They can talk about anything they want. But I find it fascinating that the Son of God, on the eve of His crucifixion and death, chose to pray what he did.
He didn’t pray that we would reach a state of doctrinal purity or that we would have “precision obedience” or that we should get everything right ALWAYS.He didn’t pray that we would be so right as to exclude anyone else from our circles and lives. He didn’t pray that we’d adhere to a specific “pattern” of worship or read a specific translation of the Bible. He didn’t pray that we would worship perfectly. He didn’t pray that we would spiritually assassinate anyone who disagreed with us. He didn’t pray that we would or wouldn’t have children’s worship, or that youth ministers had to have goatees and skinny jeans. He didn’t pray that we’d understand a dress code to be acceptable to Him. He didn’t pray that we’d be perfect or iconoclasts of culture being known by all who were important. He didn’t pray we’d all be Republican or Democrat. He didn’t even pray that we’d have to drink Welch’s grape juice (because wine is heretical, you know?).
He didn’t pray any of that.
Instead, He prayed that we would all be one. Jesus prayed that we would share in the dream of God and we would be in harmony and unity with one another, NOT because of what we do or do not do, but because of our love for Him and our love of our fellow brothers and sisters.
He also said that there was no better strategy for reaching other people with the Gospel than our love for one another.
It really could be that simple: That if we took away our labels – Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Protestant, Anglican, Episcopalian, and on and on ad nauseum…and we came together no longer to be defined by what Creed or Council we adhered to, not what our Pastor tells us, or not what our political climate dictates that we should be against. No longer separated by bible translation preferences, worship styles, or whether we believe in the rapture or the literal one thousand-year Kingdom or not.
But what if we came together under the banner of Jesus Christ and believed, as the New Testament affirms:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:1-5, ESV)
What if we all became ONE?
As we celebrate Easter this weekend, the occasion that we annual observe the fact that Jesus is not dead but lives and reigns forever, may we look at the empty tomb with wide eyes and resolute hearts. May we begin to see it as not only the defeat of death and sin, and PRAISE GOD for that! May we also begin to see it as the death of division, party lines, and exclusivism and arrogant pride within our ranks.
May we understand that Jesus died and rose again to usher in His Kingdom HERE AND NOW; that God is desiring to partner with us in restoring His great creation to shalom, and in doing so creating a new people, bought with His blood and sealed with His death and resurrection to bring light into the darkness and healing to the dying.
In the immortal words of John Lennon:
“You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you will join us and
the world[the church] will live as ONE.” (emphasis mine)
God bless you,