Mr. Carson's Island

Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away Mr. Jesse Carson lived the good life. He was the richest man alive. One day he was flying across the ocean and landed his plane on a large island he had never before seen. Upon exiting the plane he was greeted with a foul smell and a scene that turned his stomach. The island was inhabited by a race of people who were poorer than any people Mr. Carson had ever met. They were skinny and diseased and some of them lay dying on the sand. Those who were alive were too weak, from poor nutrition and disease, to be able to bury their dead.

Being the benevolent man that he was, Mr. Carson wanted to help these people. In fact, he determined then and there that he would spend his great fortune if needed in order to save them and give them a good quality of life. So upon arrival back at his home, he set out immediately to assemble the best doctors, nurses, dentists, nutritionists, geologists, architects, teachers, and any other experts he needed to go back to the island and help the deprived people he had met.

The work took its toll on Mr. Carson, as he was very much involved in the whole process, but in time the island was a paradise. The aroma from fruit trees and the sweet smell of meat sizzling on the grill replaced the stench of disease and death. The people were happy and healthy, and they adored Mr. Carson for giving to them all that he possessed. He had set up his estate so that even after his death the island could continue in wealth for many generations to come. The people were very grateful and wanted to honor him. He told them that all he wanted was for them to continue what he had started and remember him, and that they remain united and at peace with one another. He asked that they do good to one another as he had done good to them. Mr. Carson had given his time, his health, his money, and even his family (as he never married because he wanted to put all his efforts into saving the island) for them, so they were eager to do as he wished.

The people erected huge statues to Mr. Carson. The statues were made in the likeness of him and they were big enough that people could go inside. And they did. At least once a week they gathered in the statues, which were dispersed in each little community on the island, and watched films of his work and paid their respects to him and remembered him as he had asked. They were at peace.

But time went on, as time is wont to do. And the people who personally knew Mr. Carson began to die. Those who rose up after him were not fully aware of all that he had done for them. Still, they went to the statues and remembered as their parents had taught them.

Then one hot August night winds of change began to blow on the island. A great storm blew up and shut down electricity in one whole community. The people were hot and restless and could not sleep. Never having experienced the misery of disease and hunger that their ancestors had endured, they were accustomed to being comfortable all the time. So the next day they murmured to their officials, who called an electrician. The electrician quickly fixed the problem and the people were happy again.

"Isn't our electrician a wonderful man," someone said. "We should do something to honor him." All the people agreed. So they tore down the statue of Mr. Carson and erected a statue to the electrician. They still went in at least once a week and remembered Mr. Carson; but they began to separate from the other people on the island and lived their lives just a little bit differently, expressing their new ideas that it was electricity that was the most important thing on the island.

Time continued and one day someone in another community said that he thought they were using too much gasoline. It was not good to waste resources, he said. He suggested that they begin to carpool and be more efficient. As people tend to love innovation, the idea caught on quickly and soon everyone in the community was carpooling. To honor their bright idea, they tore down their statue of Mr. Carson and erected a statue of a car filled with lots of people. They thought that statue represented more fully what they stood for. Oh, they still went inside and talked about Mr. Carson, but their focus became more about social change and the environment.

Little by little, in one community after another, the statues of Mr. Carson were broken down and statues were erected in their place--statues that represented some new thought or doctrine or way of life. And, of course, they began to fight and bicker among themselves, each group thinking they were the smart ones who were doing what was most important. When they went into the statues, instead of watching films about the work Mr. Carson had done and talking about him and what he had provided for them, they began to have rallies to make money for their causes and used the statues as a place to gather for parties and celebrations that honored themselves. And they stopped doing good for one another and spent their time pushing their projects and arguing about their ideas.

Finally in all the island only one statue of Mr. Carson was left. The people who lived in that community were very sad to see what their neighbors had done. Without Mr. Carson their ancestors would have died. They owed their very lives and everything they had to him. They could not understand why the others would want to tear down his statues in honor of lesser beings and ideas. They felt that it was a slap in Mr. Carson's face, and they were grieved deeply in their hearts. They believed that if Mr. Carson was looking down from heaven, he must certainly be sad and hurt to know that those for whom he had given everything had left off honoring him to honor themselves.

Of course, this is not a true story. Or is it? Jesus Christ, the Son of Almighty God, gave up everything to come to this earth and give His life through death on a cross--to save the hungry, the poor, the diseased, and the wretched. He asked only that we remember Him and continue the work that He started, and to be united in peace and to love one another. He built His church and gave His blood for her, ready to claim her as His bride upon His return.

And what have some of us done? We have taken it upon ourselves to honor mere men and our own ideas and doctrines by calling ourselves after a man (Lutheran Church--Luther, by the way, asked that this not happen) or after a doctrine (Baptist Church) or after a form of organization (Presbyterian Church) or after an attribute of God (Providence Church of Christ). How do we justify tacking names like that on the body of Christ? Do we just delight in making it fancy by calling it the First Episcopalian Church or (you'll like this one) the Little Rachel Church of Old Regular Baptists?

As mentioned previously, the church is the bride of Christ. How many men are going to let their brides wear the name of Luther if their name is not Luther? Would they not feel that it was a slap in their face? Suppose a man married a girl and she said, "I think I will wear the name of the man who mows your grass, okay?" We know how her husband would react to that, don't we? Yet we have presumptuously done this to the divine Son of God.

1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

Perhaps Christ, who humbled Himself and came to earth and gave His life for us, will, in His humility, say to His Father on the Day of Judgment: "Oh, it's okay, Father, don't worry about it. I know it's My church. I know I gave My life for it. I know I should be the one honored when it is mentioned. I know it is My bride. But if they want to make up some name for it, well, I guess I'll be okay with it. I really wish they wouldn't put the names of men and doctrines on it since I didn't tell them to, but you know how they like to spice up things."

Maybe He will say that to God. Maybe He will. But maybe He won't. Why test Him? And more than that, why dishonor Him? Would we call ourselves the Elvis Presley Church of the Kingdom of Rock? If not then why would we want to name ourselves Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, or Methodists? The church is the holy bride of Christ. Shouldn't we honor Him in every way possible? How sad Jesus must be that many have discarded His precious name and divided and splintered themselves against His will.

Tina Rae Collins
August 18, 2006