It’s Aladdin’s signature tune. A Whole New World won an Oscar and a Grammy award and you probably know the song, whether you saw the 1992 animated classic or are looking forward to seeing the new live-action one.
It’s no spoiler to say that the song comes at the moment that Aladdin, dressed as Prince Ali, takes Princess Jasmine for a ride on his magic carpet. She leads a very controlled and structured life and has never seen much of the world beyond the palace she lives in. Freed from the confines of this glittering box, he promises to show her the world and open her eyes to the wonders she’s missing. Of course, it’s also a whole new world because they’re together and, having experienced even just a little of that, Jasmine knows she “can’t go back to where I used to be.”
As followers of Jesus, the stories of Jesus we tell are at the heart of who we are. Jesus is our example, our model to take to heart, our Way to follow. And Jesus was all about busting out of the box we put ourselves in, breaking the structure and confines of a society that trapped people where they were.
When we hear Jesus saying things like love God and love your neighbour as yourself, love your enemy, care for the poor and the sick, be generous with all you have, love each other the way I loved you, I imagine the people he was telling this too had a little feedback. I imagine there was some discussion, some concern about how hard it is to do some of these things, to live love as Jesus did. And I’m sure Jesus would say I know, I understand how hard it is, and he’d share some practical advice and encouraging words.
But most importantly, I think he’d say just imagine how things would be if we could. Imagine the world that we’d live in if we loved each other, built relationships with each other, engaged instead of feared, embraced instead of hated, loved life instead of worrying about death. It wouldn’t just be a new world, it’d be a whole one, too.
And it’s not imaginary. It’s a promise. It’s hope. Not for some distant future, but today.
Look at the Book of Revelation for minute. We spend altogether too much time on hearing Revelation as being a vision of the end of things. All this terrible craziness and destruction that’s going to happen when the world comes to an end. But Revelation isn’t just a prophecy of doom and destruction and the end of things, it’s the hope of the beginning of things: “a new heaven and a new earth … and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:1, 3-4)
Somedays it feels like we’re already living in those end times. And maybe we are because endings and beginnings are all around us. They’re part of our daily life and they’re part of what brings us new life, daily. So how do we bring the world, experiencing brokenness and pain and hurt to the Whole New World that Jesus and Revelation promise can be here?
At the end of that story in John when Jesus tells the disciples - and us - to love one another as he showed us with his life, Jesus prays. One of the things he prays is that “all may be one.” But Jesus idea of unity isn’t about agreeing on everything, being identical, following a specific idea or religion. It’s not about sameness. It’s about finding the one common thread that connects us all, and he describes it: just as God is in Jesus, Jesus is in us; just as we are in Jesus, so is Jesus in God. In other words, we are all related.
Diverse, unique, special and all connected by God. Describe that how you like: as being created in the image of God, made of love, part of the fabric of creation, all my relations - we are all connected to each other. When we embrace that instead of fighting it, we can make a whole new world.