Jesus said, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17). We often paraphrase that into a reminder to have “faith like a child.” So what might that involve?
Anyone who’s been around kids will tell you they are wonderfully imaginative. They have imaginary friends, epic battles fought with action figures, and all kinds of pretend adventures in the backyard. Adults, on the other hand, are more concerned with cold hard facts: getting more knowledge and making sensible decisions. But that might not be the best way to approach faith, or even the most Christ like.
Adults see growing and thinking as linear–we do it in a straight line, in a clear direction, on a steady path. Ask a question, seek out information, get the answer. Easy as pie, right?
Well, life doesn’t always make that much sense, even if we pretend it does. (See the books of Job and Ecclesiastes for reminders of that.) And the answers we decide on based on the facts we pick aren’t as robust or deep as the real truth is.
One Baptist minister suggests that “maybe faith is about seeking truth through imagination,” in a process that isn’t so linear or even sensible.
That’s unnerving to me, since I try to be a very sensible person. But Jesus’ ministry and life were both very creative and full of imaginative thinking. “He was criticized and crucified for his reckless abandon and wild ideas of joining the dregs of society to imagine a different way of life.”
Redemption, after all, is imagining the broken of the world as whole again, no matter how many fragmented pieces there are. Imagination is not child’s play, although that is where it begins. Babies dream in the womb. They imagine “something” from the “nothingness” they know. This sounds like redemption, or creation–something from nothing. Maybe having the faith of a child means having the imagination of one, too.
We have this imaginative power given to us by the most incomprehensible God, whom our imaginations cannot even contain. Maybe faith is all about imagining. Maybe Jesus told those stories to awaken our imaginations.
Again, that’s a little scary to me. I’m very linear and rational. That’s why, “when we let our spiritual imagination run wild with the words and images Jesus conjures up, it is dangerous” because it’s so freeing. But,
Our faith and churches could use a little imagination–stepping out of the rigid brick-and-mortar walls we’ve created not only in our minds, but also in our hearts and under our steeples. We need to reclaim this gift that God, the Great Imaginator, gave to us. We need to create and be creative in our thinking and in our redemptive response to the world. We need to create in our worship–in our songs, prayers, sermons and other spiritual rituals. We need to imagine new responses to social issues.
“We need to trust that the God who imagined humanity into being has gifted each of us with this same imaginative power to change, re-imagine, and redeem the bleak and broken of our world.”