Whatever else it implies, being created in God’s image gives human beings the power of imagination. Imagination can be used for great good, to build bridges and create art, to find solutions to problems and make music.
Imagination can also become the tool of a sinful and selfish mind. When it does, there is no beauty, only sorrow and destruction (see Genesis 6:5, 8:21 as an example).
Today’s devotional uses an odd verse to talk about the importance of imagination in loving others…
When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)
Christianity is an historical faith, not coming out of abstract ideas or the imagination of sinners. Instead, it is the revelation of God to His people from the beginning through their journeys and finally in the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That means what I believe is based on events that happened and that are recorded in the grand Book that has been a perpetual best-seller for generations.
However, as I read what God has revealed, my imagination is fired up. Being able to imagine is God’s gift that makes the facts of history real and alive and answers the cry of hearts… “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (John 12:21) Yet I know that this powerful ability must always be based on reality. When I begin to imagine things that are not true or not revealed by God’s Word, I go backwards into the darkness of sin and unbelief.
In contrast, as I read the Word of God, my faith is strengthened and refreshed because the past, in which my faith is rooted, “leaps up in life like the bones of Elisha’s vision under the power of imagination.”
Taking this farther, the devotional writer offers a brand new thought, at least new for me. He says that imagination is a religious power because it is so helpful to compassion, and answers the reason for a seeming lack of love for others. I can think of many other faults for my failure to love others, but he suggests that a lack of imagination is at the root of it.
“A vast deal of people’s callousness and cruelty and of their severe or unkindly judgment does not arise so much from lack of heart as from failure to understand imaginatively. A person who has no imagination is certain to be tactless. A person who has no imagination is an unsympathetic person.”
That statement surprises me. The devotional writer goes on to say that sympathy and tact come from the ability to grasp another’s situation, to realize their burdens. This is not the same as love because the work of love begins after I grasp someone’s need. The power that helps me to do that is God’s gift to me — the power of imagination!
For example, I finished a small quilt yesterday in colors and design that are not my taste. However, as I looked at it, I thought of a friend in a nursing home. I imagined the chill of sitting in a wheelchair instead of being able to move about freely. My mind quickly formed a picture of this little quilt across the lap of someone in that situation. I imagined their fingers playing with the flowers on the fabric and their smile at feeling warmth and comfort. Imagination produced a loving and compassionate thing to do with a little quilt.
The devotional says that every dramatist and novelist who reveals “us to ourselves” is a person of imagination. Using that imagination to express true sympathy and compassion can be a powerful expression of the love of God, making that image of God in us a power for serving Him and others, a power of the highest order.