"Imagine all the people, living life in peace"
Have you heard that line before? It comes from that utopian song Imagine, by John Lennon. It sounds idyllic, but could it ever happen? The song is about creating world peace and has some interesting lines.“Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.” For the unlearned, it's easy if they try. It goes on: Imagine there’s no hell, or countries. Imagine no greed or hunger, and people sharing. Imagine nothing to kill or die for. Imagine a brotherhood of man.
These all sound fine, however, it had already been achieved. We see the working model of this song in the early church of Acts where love was everywhere and sharing underpinned that new society. Except, Heaven and Hell are including and very real. The paradisal ingredients Lennon sought are encompassed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of that Spirit — "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23,
Lennon's song seeks to eliminate from his utopia the only ones who can create it — the God of love, Jesus the Prince of peace, and the Holy Spirit. They all work within us to bring about the necessary personal changes that allow Lennon’s world. It is this he's sought to disregard.
I understand what John Lennon was seeking. It's no different from what we all desire, a world of peace, communities where there is no war or violence against others, of no theft or lying. Where our leaders are exemplary in character. A society where marriage is undefiled lasting for life, with children being reared in households of love and integrity.
But, we need to understand that what prevents Lennon's utopia is people’s imagination. The initial problem with the song is Lennon's own imagination. It is self-centred and lacks even a basic understanding of life, how earth’s ecology works, and specifically how people’s minds and hearts work.
"Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today"
Lennon created an image of humanity, which, although outwardly humble, is strikingly like Nebuchadnezzars giant image of himself. Lennon put humanity on a pedestal.
Think on our imagination for a second — what it is, what it does, and how it works. Without control, imagination is like a runaway horse bolting anywhere it likes, often taking our actions with it. It is fickle. We can be imagining beauty one minute, yet, within a second, if we are angered, we can switch to throttling a person. Satan knows this. Which is why we can be deep in nice thought one minute, then, without our conscious engagement, be thinking on sin the next minute, as if someone else is manoeuvring the bolting horse of our mind in a direction we ourselves did not consciously choose.
Prior to deception entering the garden of Eden through the serpent, Adam and Eve only imagined good. They didn't understand evil as there was no evil to influence their imagination. There was no pride, lust or desires for greatness or promiscuity, and no arguments, only moral excellence.
Then the first evil influence whispered in Eve's ear, and her imagination began exalting her in her own mind. From that new imagination came actions of revolt against God's word. As her new imagination quickly flourished, she won her first conscript, Adam. She influenced Adam into her new way of pride, into her new doubt about the veracity of God's word. Likewise, our main spiritual battle today comes from our own imagination.
Imagination is the soil from which grows the world's woes.
Our imagination, or image creating, always needs boundaries, and God, our creator, is the one who knows what those boundaries are. Just prior to flooding the world, God summarised humanity in this line, “that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6:5. This imagination is what we are up against within ourselves daily.
We are not to be trusted with imagination, it's too powerful.
God explained at what stage it begins in us, saying, “for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth;” Genesis 8:21.
God wants us to understand our own imagination and into what trouble it can lead us. But also, what righteousness and blessings it can bring should it be focussed on God and good.
The Apostle Paul knew very well humankind’s history of self-corruption due to its imagination. He cautioned us about what to do when those strange anti-Christ thoughts enter our minds. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;" 2 Cor 10:5
The darts of imagination
The imagination is the place into which Satan shoots his fiery darts. Our imagination is either surrounded by a wall of righteousness, where the darts fall to the ground and extinguish, or it’s a fertile paddock without a wall in which the darts create a fire within us, often causing an anti-Christ action. Those darts either create a thought themselves or inflame a thought we’ve imagined.
What imaginations do we cast down? Thoughts that tell us we can sin, chase lust and have pride when God says we shouldn't, it will cost us. Wherever there are opportunities for power, money or sex, someone's imagination will desire it. Where there are people to hate, someone will be found hating them. Where there's someone to backstab, someone else will be found doing it.
For instance, if I, in writing this blog, begin thinking I’m someone special instead of simply a conduit for my Lord, that image of myself would need to be cast down.
Satan whispered in John Lennon's ear similar words to what he said to Eve. "Can God really create peace? He hasn't done it yet. John, create peace yourself. You are the only one you can trust. Write a song about it, and get the world thinking of a peaceful place without God. He' only brings trouble!”
Don’t let Satan do it to you.
Build your resistance by casting down your wrong thoughts and crushing them under your feet, as we were instructed to do with the serpent head. (Genesis 3:15).
Today’s prayer: Dear Lord, I apologise for the thoughts I’ve had of pride, sin, and lust for things outside your boundaries. Please help me to recognise early of these imaginations, so I can focus my mind and heart on bettering our relationship.
Photo by Erin Song