WHAT IF—how many thousands, maybe millions, of times have we heard or uttered the expression ‘what if’. It is literally as ‘common as houseflies’. “What if she hadn’t said that”; “what if that storm had hit us directly”; “what if he hadn’t broken his ankle in the third quarter”—and on and on and on.
The implications of all those ‘what ifs’ are consequences. There is always a consequence for every action of any kind whether physical, or mental—change always occurs. And we are continually questioning ourselves and others about the potential consequence of a ‘what if’—a different course of action or reaction.
The ‘what if’ I want to address today is Jesus. When Jesus appeared on the public scene, the world was in the same state of corruption as we are witnessing today. The Roman empire had expanded extensively in all directions. The Jews also were under Roman rule and were basically enslaved by Rome. However, they were different—they believed in ‘a one true God’, while the rest of the world was pagan. The Jews had long since devised and orchestrated a form of government whereby the rich got richer and the poor got poorer. The rich included the King, the High Priest, and the Sanhedrin.
The ruling Roman governors had long since determined that it would be much less burdensome to allow the Jews to continue their form of government, provided they did so in a cooperative manner. It was a ‘convenience’ arrangement for both parties—the Romans had to expend less military manpower while the King and High Priest could legally continue to fleece their subjects.
As I mentioned in previous communication, Aslan, a masterful student of the history of Jesus’ day, noted that there were many insurgents desiring and campaigning to overthrow the Jewish government in an effort and fight for their freedom from Roman dominance. Each, in turn, received the same treatment—death by crucifixion. Those crucifixions all took place on the highest, most visible spot on the road to Jerusalem—it was called Golgotha. The purpose of that site was to be a ‘clear warning’ to would-be traitors.
Jesus knew that his teaching would be considered treason. The Jewish law prescribed retribution for most personal crimes as ‘tit for tat’—‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. Jesus, however, recognized the untenableness of such a system. He could see clearly that the Jew ‘lick for lick’ legal system only fostered hostility among people. More importantly, he realized that love and acceptance were the only dictums by which people could live in harmony. So he preached extreme heresy—‘Love your God with your all and love your neighbor as yourself’ (paraphrased). Desperately, he tried to convince his disciples of that truth before his ultimate fate came to reality. We’ll never know for sure whether or not he was successful.
What we do know is that, just as all traitors, he was convicted of treason and crucified. After his death, all sorts of stories were written and rewritten with the ultimate fate of his teaching being basically discarded or ignored. By the year 325 AD, his so-called followers (Christians) were in total discord with one another—perpetual bickering, quarrelling, and even fighting among themselves. That atmosphere prompted the Emperor Constantine to commission them create a Christian Church of their liking—it would become the ‘official Religion of the Roman Empire’.
The Church they established was patterned exactly after Judaism—Jesus’ teaching of love were totally ignored. Instead of an all loving, all forgiving, all accepting God who permeated every tiny aspect of creation with his Spirit, they promulgated a God separate from his creation—a God who was ‘just and merciful’—seldom loving. Just like the Jews, Christians created a God who could be bargained with—he could ‘knock you on your butt or send you to hell one second’ or handle you like a little lamb’ the next—a truly schizoid God.
So, look around at what we have—an entire world at war or threating war perpetually. So, what about the ‘what ifs’?
What if the followers of Jesus had perpetuated his teaching of the universality of God—‘split a peace of wood and ill be there, lift a rock and find me there’? What if they had accepted Jesus’ teaching that everything they ate and drank was the substance of God, while being ever-mindful and thankful for their God’s loving sustenance—the word eucharist means ‘thanksgiving’. What if his followers had perpetuated his teaching that God is ‘all love’, and , therefore, our command is to love and accept our God as all loving, while, simultaneously, accepting our neighbor with that same love. What would be the ‘consequences’ of such what ifs?
I would freely suggest to you that the consequences of such ‘what ifs’ would be an entirely different world from ours. There would be no monstrous buildings erected under the guise of ‘pleasing God’—built on the backs of literal slave labor and costing billions of dollars to both build and maintain. There would be no hierarchy lording over their subjects, fleecing their money and distributing power among themselves—does any of that ring true with the Jewish religion of Jesus’ day? There wouldn’t be a preacher on every ‘street corner’, telling you that he’ll show you the way to heaven for a ‘pretty penny’—and each of them has a different way.
What if there were genuine ‘love’ of God and neighbor rather than the ‘greed’ exhibited in Jesus’ Judaism and perpetuated through religion today? Jesus despised religion and he flatly said so—he called them hypocrites. Paul, likewise, despised religion. You should read Professor Garry Wills’ book, What Paul Meant. If you haven’t already, you need to read my books Wilderness Cry and Peace in Spirituality. You would get a real ‘what if’ perspective in their reading.
If Jesus’ followers had heeded his advice, there likely would be peace in the world. However , the lure of the ‘almighty dollar’ led them away from Jesus and us all, who are God—we are of God’s substance (spirit)—we are God’s children—Jesus is our brother.
What if we all had similar understanding?