On Capturing the Imagination...
...and Being Captured by Jesus' Vision
On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong was the first human being to set foot on the moon. The country and the world were riveted to their television sets as those first grainy pictures returned live footage of Armstrong and his colleague, “Buzz” Aldrin moving around the surface of our nearest heavenly neighbor.
I was seven years old at the time and I vividly remember sitting in front of the TV watching and trying to imagine what it would be like to be there. I have had an amateur interest in astronomy from a young age and what I watched in front of the television captured my imagination for years to follow.
Some two thousand years ago, Jesus captured the imagination of the people around him. He taught in ways that people had never encountered before, he performed great works that first century Jewish peasants had never seen. He spoke of the things of God that touched the souls of those who listened. And Jesus captured the imagination of the first Christians in his death and resurrection, that salvation came from God in a way they had never imagined. Once the first Christians could imagine what God had done for them, they could imagine what they needed to do for others. They went out from Jerusalem and proclaimed the gospel, capturing the imagination of what God was now doing for the world.
God still desires to capture our imagination today, but it can be difficult for men and women in the twenty-first century West to be so captured because too many have already had their imaginations held captive by the things that Jesus says, “fade away.” We have been captured by reality TV (what I refer to as voyeur television), we have been shackled to the pursuit of things that do not enhance our relationship with Jesus Christ; indeed some of those things actually sever that relationship. This is not only true of those who do not follow Jesus, but it can also be the case for some who claim to be his followers.
I fear that the church in America is not as captivated by the gospel as it should be; and thus we lack the imagination to wonder and hope and pray and involve ourselves in those things that will captivate others for Jesus Christ. I am afraid that we in the church have turned so inward on ourselves that we are unable to turn outside ourselves and help the world imagine the kinds of possibilities that only God can bring about, and that cannot happen while glued in front of the television watching the latest family meltdown or listening in on conversations that years ago would have been considered as a private family matter.
The Jesus who captivated the hearts of many two thousand years ago is still captivating hearts and minds today. Are we so captivated? And if so, can we imagine the possibilities that God wants to bring about in this world through the church?
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I fear that the captivating moment to things may be the largest problem in the church today. One can teach one’s need to love one’s enemies, even the need to giveup one’s right to direct one’s own life without nearly the resistance and anger one will face for suggest one’s need to give up one’s wealth (including possessions). And lest I sound sanctimonious, I’m not very fond of that aspect of the Gospel message, either. Yet the reality that could exist if priorities shifted in that way would be captivating.