June Reflection by Richard Parrish Let's Pretend
"Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” - Matthew 10:34 (NRSV)
Some of us may remember when John Lennon’s song, Imagine, hit the charts in the early ‘70’s. His solo album of the same name debuted in the thick of the Viet Nam war.
The lyrics plea for us to envision a world of peace and unity where all are one: where there’s no hunger, greed, and where everyone shares equally.
To imagine our world where love always trumps hate, unity is continuously achieved, composed attitudes continually prevail, and no differences exist is, well; whimsical.
I long for peace. I want to reflect love, encourage unity, and remain calm with those who disagree with me. I long for senseless violence to cease, and desire to do all I can to be a constructive voice against evil in this world. However, to imagine a world of peace without conflict is naïve.
Jesus’ disciples longed for him to be King of an earthly kingdom where peace would flourish. He jolts their perception of utopia by reminding them his mission is not to bring peace to this world, but a sword.
Imagination is a beautiful thing. It can also be dangerous.
To dream of what could be, inspires us to action. When imagination conjures up images of a better way of life, a new solution to a problem, or intention to benefit others, it’s a good thing and difficult to see any negative downside.
However, history reveals that imagination is not always altruistic. The wise words of Proverbs remind us:
“Do not envy the wicked, nor desire to be with them; for their minds devise violence, and their lips talk of mischief” - Proverbs 24:1-2 (NRSV).
Imagination is the aptitude by which we can reproduce a mental image (“…their minds devise [imagine] violence…”).
When I was a boy, I had an active imagination. There were no video games, Facebook, Instagram, or other social media apps to fill my time. Playtime for me (whether alone or with my friends) required imagination.
“Let’s pretend that …” became the words that opened the mental door to a world of make-believe. Those words served as a launching pad, thrusting me into fanciful and creative images that were not real. Here’s an example:
My imagination was the spark that transformed a deserted field behind an old quarry into a muddy battlefield where we played “pretend war” for hours. It wasn’t a real war, nor was the field a battlefield. It was a piece of land located behind an out-of-business quarry.
However, the ability to invent in my mind, something that wasn’t, was all it took to convert a piece of land into a battlefield, or a quick pick-up game on the baseball field to the last inning of the World Series!
It’s been years since I played pretend war, or a world series, or the last play of a national championship football game by imagination. However, those memories still warm my heart.
However, not all imagination is innocent.
On one occasion, my youthful ingenuity (encouraged by imagination) became the inspiration to create hand-grenades out of burned-out light bulbs – not the smartest thing I ever did (and no, I will not give you the recipe)! Although it was innovative, the intended use of this creative inspiration was anything but innocent!
The problem with Lennon’s Imagination is: He leaves us only with a fanciful picture of what he envisions utopia to be while failing to address how we deal with the reality of evil in our world.
Eliminating God from the equation of peace (“Imagine there’s no heaven… no hell below us… and no religion, too”) requires adherence to the rejection of moral restraint.
Perhaps I could buy into this notion if everyone’s imagination was pure. However, not everyone’s thoughts are wholesome. As desirable as it may look, living in a world without moral restraint is problematic because not every one’s image is unselfish.
In the center of my conflicted world, there are many questions of why God seemingly allows injustice to triumph. It’s a good reminder that in an earthly kingdom, evil always challenges peace. It is only in God’s kingdom, where ultimate peace will triumph over evil.
“[May] the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7).
What are some obstacles to peace that I can think of, and why do I see them as barriers?
What are some practical steps I can take to experience peace in my troubled world?
How can I reflect peace and love in my home and community?
Do moral values contribute to peace? Why? Why not?
Is my focus on this world or God’s kingdom?