By Doug Clevenger
(Note: Doug Clevenger preaches for the 2nd & B Street church in Brawley, California. He is a Certified Public Accountant by training, graduating from San Diego State University in 1978. He began preaching in 1987 and has preached for churches in San Diego and Bakersfield before moving to Brawley.
The following article originally appeared in a secular newspaper, and attracted several people from the community in Brawley to the services of the church there. I believe readers of GOT will profit from it as well. – Steve Wolfgang)
Just as my parents can so vividly recall the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, so I remember December 8, 1980, the night John Lennon was murdered. I was loading my U-Haul in the rain for my return from Dallas to my home in San Diego. Though I was anxious to see my folks, the enthusiasm of going home for the holidays was tempered by the sorrow of leaving behind so many good friends. Some of those friends had taught me of Jesus Christ. A wonderful new beginning to my life had begun in Dallas. I was sad to leave.
As I drove I turned on the radio. To my pleasant surprise, a Beatles song was playing. I was feeling much better now. Ever since I was a child the Beatles had been my favorite group. I had grown up with them and their music, knew all the words by heart and collected every record they released in this country. For a few moments my mind was relieved of the sadness of leaving Dallas as I happily sang along with the Beatles.
Then came the news. John Lennon had been shot to death earlier that evening in New York City. It was as if part of my youth had been destroyed. Lennon’s music wielded such a profound influence upon me, not because I approved of every facet of his personal life, but because his music had so precisely spoken to my concerns, even as a child. “Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you seek, it’s getting hard to be someone . . . life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting my friends . . . just gimme some truth. . . ” were some of his lyrics I identified with while growing up. His quest was my quest, and that quest led me finally and decisively to Jesus Christ. I remember weeping as I drove and considered both the debt I owed Lennon and the irony that my life was only beginning while his ad so abruptly ended.
Last October 9, I turned on the radio to hear it was Lennon’s 50th birthday. To honor him, radio stations around the world simultaneously played his song, “Imagine.” I was struck with the paradox that was John Lennon. “Imagine,” a song many believe to be his crowning achievement, simultaneously expresses both the genius and tragedy of Lennon: “No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man, imagine all the people, living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you will join us, and the world will live as one.” Again, Lennon had articulated the right ideals – peace on earth, good will toward men. But tragically, he relied solely on man’s wisdom and imagination. While pleading in one song, “give peace a chance,” he had a apparently never given God a chance: “God is a concept . . . I don’t believe in Jesus . . . I just believe in me.” He sang: “Imagine there’s no heaven . . . no religion too” was his impotent answer to finding peace on earth.
Lennon’s hopes and dreams are not only mine, but those of millions of people around the world. But so many of us, like Lennon, look for it in the wrong place. Lennon asks man to imagine, but God, through the apostle Paul says, “. . . eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his spirit” (1 Cor. 2:9-10). I wish Lennon were alive so I could tell him the things my Dallas friends first told me: that Christ died that men might have peace with each other by first making their own peace with God. Man could never imagine the wonderful story of the cross. The world Lennon could only dream of can be a reality only when each of us lets Christ rule in his heart as Lord. “For ye are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26-28). Lennon died before he learned that God alone could give him the lasting peace he longed for. His death warns us of the dangers of putting off the active pursuit of our ideals. Peace on earth is nothing more than the aggregate effect of the individual finding peace with God, multiplied millions of time the world over. All we are saying is, give God a chance.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 13, p. 404
July 2, 1992