Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Imitation of Christ - Thomas A Kempis

If I had to summarize this book in one word it would be "humility."  The author - a monk in the 15th century - wrote what is considered to be the best known Christian work outside of the Bible.  

I enjoyed the first section of the book the most - the "counsels on the inner life."  I am still finishing the last 1/2 of the book.

I have one point of disagreement - if I so dare to disagree with such a classic work!  A Kempis wrote from the perspective of one who was in the midst of the monastic movement - a movement used powerfully by God, but whose role was often to step away from common man rather than to live among them.  I prefer an incarnational approach to sharing my faith and life with others - to live among rather than to separate from.  

Here are some of my favorite "nuggets" -

"It is no great matter to associate with the good and gentle, for this is naturally pleasant to everyone.  All men are glad to live at peace, and prefer those who are of their own way of thinking.  But to be able to live at peace among hard, obstinate, and undisicplined people and those who oppose us, is a great grace, and a most commendable and manly achievement."  

And a whole section - I cannot help but reproduce in its entirety here:

"Do not be concerned overmuch who is with you or against you, but work and plan that God may be with you in all that you do. Keep a clean conscience, and God will mightily defend you; for whoever enjoys the protection of God cannot be harmed by the malice of man.  If you learn to suffer in silence, you may be sure of receiving God's help.  He knows the time and the way to deliver you; so trust yourself entirely to His care.  God is strong to help you, and to free you from all confusion.  It is often good for us that others know and expose our faults, for so may we be kept humble.  

When a man humbly admits his faults, he soon appeases his fellows, and is reconciled to those whom he had offended.  God protects and delivers a humble man; He loves and comforts him.  To the humble He leans down and bestows great success, raising him from abasement to honour.  To him He reveals His secrets, and lovingly calls and draws him to Himself.  Even in the midst of trouble, the humble man remains wholly at peace, for he trusts in God, and not in the world.  Do not consider yourself to have made any spiritual progress, unless you account yourself the least of all men."  

A common struggle - to allow others to expose our faults and to humbly own it and repent publicly of our sin.  Ouch.  I admit my ego still struggles under this injunction.  And yet - I have personally seen in my own life and others the absolute beauty of repentance and restoration as a result of a deep humility rooted in the Gospel-identity we have in Christ.

God...humble me more. Help me imitate Christ.

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