Apple, Hollywood, the NFL, Xbox, Bud Light, McDonald’s, Acura, and Under Armour all have one thing in common. It’s bigger than trying to sell a product or to gain a larger market share. What they’re really after is your imagination. They know what too few of us have realized: whatever captures our imagination, captures us.
A brief look around our homes will reveal this truth. Their products line our shelves, their songs fill our playlists, their stories replay in our minds, their beverages are in our fridges, their games are on our screens, their wrappers are in our garbage, and their logos have branded our children.
None of them is necessarily bad, for God “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). It’s not wrong to own an iPad, rent a movie, watch a football game, drink Bud Light, or enjoy a Happy Meal, but it is dangerous. And that’s not just because fallen man might find a way to use these products for ill. Remember, these companies aren’t simply selling you a product; they’re luring your imagination. And the thing that captures our imagination, captures us.
As Christians, we have been “captured” by another: Jesus Christ. Scripture describes us as “redeemed” (1 Pet. 1:18), “chosen” (1 Pet. 2:9), and “ransomed” (Rev. 5:9). We are called God’s “possession” (1 Pet. 2:9), “people” (2 Cor. 6:16), and “sheep” (John 10:27). Our imaginations belong to Him. Scripture calls us to take our thoughts captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5), to be transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2), and to “think about these things:” truth, honor, justice, purity, loveliness, goodness, excellence, and praiseworthy goods (Phil. 4:8). In other words, we are called to cultivate Christian imaginations.
Two questions immediately arise: why and how. Beyond the bare command of God, why should we cultivate Christian imaginations and how are we to do it?
Why should we cultivate a Christian imagination?
While God does claim sovereignty over our thoughts, the reason for aligning our imagination with Him is bigger than just obedience. In their recent book Imagination Redeemed, Gene Veith and Matthew Ristuccia point out the good that results from a sanctified imagination: “When God captures our imagination, he captures the rest of our mind, including our understanding and our will.” As we observed before: whatever captures our imagination, captures us. We will give our time, our resources, and our thought life to the thing that captivates us. Who is more worthy of our captivated imagination than God Himself?
How do we cultivate a Christian imagination?
As with most things of great value, there’s no shortcut. Veith and Ristuccia observe, “A Christian imagination comes, above all, from reading the Bible continually, studying it, meditating on it, and just saturating your mind and your imagination with the Word of God.” There’s simply no shortcut to this.
They add, “Hearing good preaching week in and week out can profoundly shape a Christian worldview and a Christian imagination.” By “good preaching” they aren’t referring to the preacher’s speaking skill or to his ability to tell a good story; they’re talking about good, solid, Biblical Law/Gospel preaching. They further observe, “Life in the church at every level will help you cultivate a Christian imagination.” This includes faithfully hearing the Word read and preached, receiving the Sacrament of the Altar, singing the Church’s hymnody, and learning the Church’s liturgy. These rituals coupled with personal and corporate (group) study of Scripture will cultivate a Christian imagination and leave you captivated with Christ. – Pastor Conner