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I got to thinking the other day, What would the world be like if Jesus had never been born? How would the history of the past 2,000 years be different? Would you and I today miss anything significant if there’d never been a Jesus?

The answer is that today’s world would be a lot worse off if Jesus had never been born. For starters, Jesus’ moral impact has been profound. Most people, including atheists, recognize the value of the moral principles Jesus taught—the golden rule, forgiveness, and love even for one’s enemies.

These principles have shaped our Western culture. Democracy also traces its roots back to ancient Greece, which preceded Christianity. But Christian principles have combined with the democracy advocated by the Greeks to give us a culture today that honors mercy and justice, protects “the little guy” from abuse, and extends freedom of religion, thought, and speech to everyone.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there have been times in history when Christians have been the worst violators of these principles. The Inquisition of the Dark Ages comes to mind, as do the conflicts between Christians of different persuasions in Northern Ireland and the former Yugoslavia. Nevertheless, the world as a whole condemns the atrocities, ancient and modern, that have been perpetrated in the name of a false Christianity.

And I propose that one of the primary reasons is the positive influence that Jesus’ moral teachings have had on the large majority of people in the world.

Another thing we’d miss today if Jesus had never been born is a rich history of art and literature. Some of the most beautiful artwork of the past 2,000 years has been Christian art. Some of the better known examples include Michelangelo’s Pieta, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, and Salvador Dali’s Christ of St. John of the Cross.

In literature? Shakespeare’s plays are filled with Christian themes and Christian moral principles. There’s John Milton, and more recently Robert Frost. And head and shoulders above them all for its influence on our culture stands the King James Bible, which was commissioned by a Christian king for a specifically Christian audience.

All of this art and literature was inspired, ultimately, by Jesus.

Then there’s Christian charity, which began with Dorcas in the early church and continued throughout the past two millenniums with bishops, preachers, monks, nuns, and countless ordinary Christians who have recognized human needs and stepped in to meet them. Around the world countless hospitals are operated by Christian organizations. And a host of Christian charitable organizations have sprung up in recent years that serve human needs on a global scale, including Lutheran World Relief, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Catholic Relief Services, and World Vision.

And who can forget Albert Schweitzer and his jungle hospital in Africa or Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity in India?

All these were inspired by Jesus’ command to visit the sick, clothe the naked, and feed the hungry.

Countless lives have been changed because of Jesus, from Paul the persecutor to John Newton the captain of a slave ship. The love Jesus taught doesn’t reside in the natural human mind. It’s placed there through the process we call “conversion” or the “new birth.” Today thousands of lives are transformed every day as people around the world accept Jesus’ promise to implant His Spirit in their hearts. Drunkards become sober. Murderers become law-abiding citizens. Thieves return their stolen goods. Gossips apologize for the relationships they’ve damaged.

All because they met Jesus.

Finally, the most important difference Jesus has made the past 2,000 years is the hope He’s given millions of people that a better world is coming: a world where there’ll be no more sickness, accidents, pain, or death.

Pie in the sky? Well, I can’t prove to you in the scientific way of proving things that there’s a heaven to win and a hell to lose. But that hope lies behind everything else the world has gained these 2,000 years because of Jesus’ life and His death. Jesus’ promise of a better life beyond the grave has inspired Christians from the first century to the twenty-first to evangelize their world, and all the good things I’ve mentioned in this short editorial and many more have been the fall-out from that evangelism.

So what difference has Jesus’ birth made in your life? Have you become more kind and thoughtful? Has He helped you overcome a bad habit? Has He given you the assurance of eternal life? He’s anxious to do these things for you. All you have to do is ask Him.

What If He Hadn’t Been Born?

by Marvin Moore
  
From the December 2004 Signs