What if I had not missed the plane that crashed? What if I had gone to another college and not met my wife? What if our team had recovered that football fumble last week?
What if Susan Elbaneh, a Yemeni American, and her fiancé were not in line at the Yemen American Embassy when thugs and terrorists bombed the Embassy? They could have gone at another time to sign papers regarding their upcoming wedding. Both were killed. “What ifs” are heart-rending and result in driving some people into hopelessness.
Life is full of “what ifs.” Both serious and ridiculous books and articles have been written about history’s “what ifs.” What if Hitler or Mussolini or Mao Zedong had not been born? What if Germany won the First World War, would there have been a second? What would life in Texas be like had Germany and Japan won the Second World War? Would the west coast be speaking Japanese and the east coast, German? I know Texans would still be speaking our own version of English and Spanglish.
What if you had been born in Lower Slobovia? What if you had been born into a Hindu or Muslim home rather than a Christian or agnostic home? “What ifs”, if carried to an extreme, can cause anxiety or worry. Worry is like a rocking chair, said Corrie ten Boom, there is lots of energy, but you don’t get anywhere. The Swedish proverb says: “worry gives a small thing a big shadow.”
Having read the Bible through more than once and read hundreds of books explaining, enriching or even doubting the Bible, I have come up with some “what ifs.”
Lately, I have been reading the Acts of the Apostles section of the New Testament about a gang of zealots who decided to kill the Apostle Paul. While visiting Damas-cus, Paul grew more and more forceful. He had silenced the Jews of Damascus with his cogent proofs that Jesus was the Messiah.
The New English Bible says “As the days mounted up, the Jews hatched a plot against his life; but their plans became known to Saul [later, Paul]. They kept watch on the city gates day and night so that they might murder him; but his converts took him one night and let him down by the wall, lowering him in a basket.” (Acts 9:23-25)
And I thought: What if the apostle did not learn of this plot and started out the city gate one day? What would have been the result? Probably we would have a much smaller New Testament. Paul (his Christian name) went on to write the most books and letters in the New Testament section of the Bible.
Through the ages there have been scholars of Paul who think Paul’s imprint on Jesus’ gospel was not the ideal approach, especially to the Gentile world. Paul, in his letters, corrects some early Christians of their behavior. He spoke on conventional and cultural things Christians should not be involved in. Some of these have been misinterpreted (to me) and have even helped to divide many a church body.
A high school buddy I had was the son of a preacher. His mother was preacher in a Pentecostal church in our town. She did not believe in make-up or fancy dress. The plainer the better. And on her it looked good. Extremes are never good.
Nearly nude girls on America’s beaches and burka-garbed ladies on Arab deserts are both extremes we can do without.
What if Christians, from the beginning, had all agreed on the basic stuff? “Being one” was a prayer of Jesus for his followers. I guess God is not saying, “What if?” but “Next time…”
Britt Towery, a native of Brownwood, is a former missionary, freelance writer and published author of “Carey Daniel’s China Jewell, story of the Gal from Buffalo Gap.” His columns are published in the Bulletin on Fridays. He welcomes reader feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other columns are available on his Web site, www.