During men’s Bible study this morning, right in the middle of reading the book of John, a friend asked this question to the group, “Can you imagine a world without the Bible?” The question quickly broadened, first to imagining a world without religion, before finally settling on the big kahuna, can you imagine a world without God?
I struggled to create this imagined reality in my head, and have been unable to shake this notion ever since.
What would a world without God be like?
Most every world religion has some variation of the Golden Rule; that we are to do unto one another as we would have done unto us. God, or the notion of God, takes us beyond our little corner of reality, beyond the particular lens of the world we have been exposed to, and the lens we choose to see the world through, and says, like any good infomercial:
BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.
There’s more to this life than meets the eye. There’s more than just your reality. You aren’t just here by accident. You have purpose, you have meaning. You were put on this earth to live in right relationship with all of creation. For God didn’t just make you. Or just your gender, or your race, or your IQ or socioeconomic status, or any other way you may choose to self-identify what makes you, you.
A world with God is a world linked. A world linked to something much bigger than just you. A world inextricably linked with every other human and creature on the planet. God created it, and deemed it good. And in that world you share common genetic makeup, common DNA, that binds you, now and forever, with the triumphs, failures and challenges of every other human on this planet. A world linked is not one with winners or losers, but one of shared problems. And shared solutions. When one suffers we all suffer. For one to succeed, in this big family tree, we all must.
Now imagine the alternative. A world without God. What would that look like? A world without God takes away this notion of a shared humanity. Takes away our shared DNA, our shared family tree. It takes away our responsibility to care for one another.
And in its place? We are left, to varying degrees, isolated. We are left only associating with people that look, act or think like us. Or share our same country. Or political party. We are left divided. We are left broken. We are left with winners, and losers, and finger pointing. And shouting. And anger. Oh anger, you nastiest of demons, pitting us against one another until no one is left standing. You are a nasty, nasty thing, anger. Ultimately, when left to our own devices, and bound by our own self-imposed governance of self-interest we are simply left. Left alone. Humanity, outside of the walls we impose on ourselves, matters not.
But life doesn’t have to be ruled by our own self interests. And our living certainly doesn’t have to be lived alone. God created us, and all things, as good. As difficult as it can be to see that some days, with God, with common purpose, this doing unto others, unto our brothers and sisters as we would have done unto us, unifies. It creates a sense that the well-being of all, really and truly does matter.
The apostle Paul in Galatians echoes this oneness, finding that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor male or female, for you are all one in Christ.
And Martin Luther King, in his famed I Have A Dream speech, wishes this unity on his own children, that, one day, they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Here he saw the world for what it was, and is, as broken, and chose to live into another reality.
On this day, a more emotionally charged day than most, I choose to keep God in the center of our world. I choose to live into God’s shared, common purpose for us. A shared purpose that values the humanity of all. As Paul does, I choose to value oneness, over labels of race, gender, or status. As Martin Luther King does, I dare to dream. To dream that the content of our character matters, deeply. I choose to turn down a world without God that, left to our own devices pits us against each other in every possible way. Instead I choose to live into our one, common, shared humanity, complete with all the high ideals, tribulations and joys that entails. In short, I choose unity. May it be so.