Imagine there’s no heaven,
I’ts easy if you try…
So sang John Lennon in what is many people’s favourite song, But I hear that many Evangelical Christians don’t like it. And for good reason, it imagines a world without God. What’s so good about imagination anyway? Tou can imagine death to enemies, imagine yourself getting to the top of business at the expense of others in a dog eat dog world. When people imagine their own personal vision and go for it, it is not necessarily a good thing, it all depends on what that vision is. As far as positive thinking is concerned, perhaps Lennon was onto a good thing.
The problem I have with Christian criticism of Imagine is that many of the critics of the song are doing the same thing. I have heard sermons that are little more than lectures on self help. The christian message is more than the power of positive thinking, God has to be in there as well, and not just tagged on at the end. The Christian downer on imagination could be down to a particular interpretation of verses such as this:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. Genesis 6:5-6 RSV
Is there something wrong with using our imagination, were men in the passage above (it is at the beginning of the story of Noah and the Flood) wicked because of their imaginings, or were their imaginings a result of them being wicked? It’s a chicken and egg situation, which came first?
The great hymn of commitment to God, “Take my life and let it be,” lists a lot of things to hand over to God. It is out of copyright, so here it is:
Take my life, and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use
every power as Thou shalt choose.
Take my will, and make it Thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own;
it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for Thee.
Giving to God all that we have, and all that we do is good. Even what we think is in there, it says “Take myintellect.” But where is the imagination in this? (I’m not knocking the hymn, I love it. As a list of all the areas of life to dedicate to God there was always going to be some things missing in the words of a short song. But it does a very good job.)
Now imagine something. Imagine a church where people give not only their time, posessions, actions, words and intellect to God, but also their imaginations. Imagine a church which is imagining the things that God is imagining. Imagine the creative thoughts of God being spoken out into the congregation and into the world. That’s a prophetic people.
Lord, take my imagination, let me see the things that you are thinking.