In 1971, John Lennon released the song “Imagine”. The older readers will know the lyrics immediately. The newer readers can look them up for themselves. They won’t be hard to find. The catchy tune and the prominent lyrics of hope for peace made this song a classic. I still hear it on the radio every now and then. Many musicians have done their own rendition over the years. But a closer examination to the words reveals that Lennon felt religion was one of the big problems the world faced and we would all be better off if there were no religion. If we would just open our minds and think about a world without a heaven or hell or without any religion at all, then the world would be a better place. Or so John Lennon thought.
But I’ve imagined a world without heaven and it is as depressing of a thought as I’ve ever had. Imagine if this world is all there is.
- Everyone dies. The good and bad alike. They face the same fate. And if one turns to length of life as a source of consolation, then it is devastating to realize that some of the wicked will die of old age and some of the most loving and righteous people will die in their youth. So, there is no justice.
- You can’t avoid death. It is an inevitability for you and everyone you love. So, there is no hope.
- Everything you do in life will be undone and / or forgotten. The vast majority of us will not have a lasting impact on the world that is remembered. I’ve been to many graveyards. Engraved stones acknowledge that a person had a name, was born, and then died. All else is forgotten. And, I’ve been to enough older graveyards to know that even the engravings fade into oblivion. It doesn’t take long before all is forgotten and lost. So, life is pointless.
John Lennon wanted a world with no violence. A noble thought, to be sure. But to fulfill his dream, he asked me to imagine a nightmare.
But would you join me in imagining a different world. Imagine a world where, rather than there being no religion, there was but one true religion—a world where everyone knew God and pleased Him. Imagine a world where there was no sin. Take a moment. Close your eyes and paint a vivid picture of what such a world would look like.
What do you see?
We’ve grown up in a world saturated with sin and its consequences. Only in an exercise of imagination can we conceive of how our world would be different without it. But what a world it would be.
Everyone would do the right thing. There would be no lying and no gossip. Such a thing would not exist. There would be no violence whatsoever. No person would try to hurt another. There would be no divorce. No one would need to lock their doors. A stroll at night would be perfectly safe. Imagine a world like that.
The relationship with God would be so different. While I can’t say that any recent natural disaster is a direct punishment of God against the world because of sin, I firmly believe that a world without sin—one that is pleasing to God—would know no such things. No tornadoes. No forest fires. No earthquakes. No floods. That means there would be no survivalists. Why would anyone worry about storing up food or building a bunker? There would be no national alert system. Towns would not be wiped out and mass losses of life would never occur.
For that matter, there would be no death. Death is the consequence of sin (Rom. 6:23). So, if there was no sin, there would be no death. This one thought, more than any of the previous points, is hard for me to wrap my mind around. It’s hard to imagine. You’d never have to say goodbye to a loved one. You would have no reason to dread what a doctor might tell you.
Seems to me, that if there was no sin and never had been any sin, then there would be no fear and no worry either. If your loved one didn’t come home on time, what would that matter? You’d know they’d be home eventually. You wouldn’t have to worry about school shootings. For one, there wouldn’t be any. But secondly, your children wouldn’t be at any risk of dying anyway. Watching your child drive on their own for the first time wouldn’t result in a sense of dread. They’d be back. Every time.
Actually, would there be planes and cars in a world with no sin? Having all the time in the world, why would we ever need to hurry? We would only go fast for fun and recreation. How much would your life change if you were never in a hurry again?
No fear. No death. No disasters. No violence. No sin. Now that’s a world I’d like to imagine. That’s a dream I’d like to live. It’s also a glimpse of heaven, a place where “nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it” (Rev. 22:27). No wonder it is also described as a place where every tear will be wiped away, “and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4).
But, after imagining such a world and then opening my eyes to the current reality we live in… I learn to really hate sin. Every sin. Any sin. We could have had it all, but we got this, and it’s our fault. Sin is to blame for everything that is wrong with the world. It all started with a piece of forbidden fruit—breaking a simple command from God. From there, sin escalated and multiplied exponentially. And as a result, here we are, in a world where the news is awful. A world filled with fear and worry. A world with inevitable death and untold pain.
I hate sin. Look what it’s done to the world and to you and me. I hate sin.
But you want to know what I hate even more? I hate that—despite everything I’ve just said about how wonderful the world would be without sin—I love sin so much. Rather than being repulsed, I am tempted. And being the weak man that I am, I have done more than my fair share to ruin the world. I really hate that. So, when I imagine a world without sin, I’m motivated to fight harder against temptation. I’m reminded that temporary pleasure cannot compare to the immense damage that sin causes. And with this in mind, I try to do better every week.