Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Imitation of Christ (reprise)

I know there's much good to be found in Thomas A Kempis' classic The Imitation of Christ with the overarching themes of discipleship and humility. But I think it is incomplete in some vital ways, having only a partial view of Christ's work.

To imitate Christ more fully, a few more things need to be recalled in the picture of Christ's life: celebrating at weddings, welcoming sinners, eating with tax collectors and prostitutes, taking little children in his arms. Our idea of the imitation of Christ must grow beyond the medieval ascetic framework in which the author wrote. Our idea of imitating Christ must remember not only how much time he spent in solitude and prayer, but also how much time he spent with friends, how often he was seen at someone else's house for dinner, that he had even been known to invite himself over to an outcast's house. Christ's life did not consist solely of the quiet solitude of meditation, but also included the joyful and the friendly and the active.

We are not merely freed from worldly pursuits for our own sake to enable a withdrawal from the world. We are freed for a greater thing, to take up Christ's task of seeking and saving the lost, serving Christ in the redemption of the world. Christ went out in the world seeking and saving that which was lost. He saved that which was lost first of all by loving that which was lost. A fuller imitation of Christ includes time among the unloved and unlovable -- and particularly those in our own lives we have difficulty loving. The imitation of Christ brings us to learn love and joyfulness, hospitality and friendship from Christ, and to frame them as part of the redeeming work he has sent us to do.

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