I’m doing a slow read through the classic The Imitation of Christ. It is best read slowly, reflectively, and prayerfully. It’s too much to absorb as a quick read and it’s impossible to complete in one setting. I decided to pick it up once again after nearly two decades since I first read it. Already about a third of the way through and I’m convicted on many fronts.
Thomas A Kempis (1379-1471) does a masterful job of speaking directly to the heart of the matter: if we are to imitate Christ, we need to hold the world and all its vanities in contempt. To dwell upon the life of Jesus Christ compels us to reconsider how much we are being conformed by this world rather than transformed by Christ. His simple but profound statement, “it is vanity to desire a long life, and to have little care for a good life” provides the essence of this masterpiece.
It is written in four books, respectively entitled: “Useful Reminders of the Spiritual Life” (Book One), “Suggestions drawing one toward the Inner Life” (Book Two), “Of Inner Comfort” (Book Three), and “The Book of the Sacrament” (Book Four). It is written in the form of meditations, brief chapters brimming with insight about one major theme after another. Paying close attention to the content herein will bring the reader into a deeper self-awareness and prayerful devotion.
A few worthwhile quotes to ponder: “Many words satisfy not the soul, but a good life refreshesh the mind, and a pure conscience giveth great confidence towards God” and “Let thy company be the humble and the simple, the devout and the gentle, and let thy discourse be concerning things which edify” and “Trials and temptations turn greatly unto our profit, even though they be great and hard to bear; for through them we are humbled, purified, instructed” and “Endeavor to be patient in bearing with other men’s faults and infirmities whatsoever they be, for thou thyself also hast many things which have need to be borne with by others” and “The clothing and outward appearance are of small account; it is change of character and entire mortification of the affections which make a truly religious man.”
May the words of this wonderful text ring true in your soul and provide both refreshment and challenge to all who are seriously intentional about living for and imitating Christ in thought, word, and deed. “O how great is the abundance of Thy sweetness, O Lord, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee.” Amen.
Did any of the quotes that Steve selected from The Imitation of Christ touch or compel you?
What classics do you re-read on a regular basis?
Stephen A. Macchia, D.Min., is the Founder and President of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (www.LeadershipTransformations.org); Director of the Pierce Center, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; Author of several books, including Crafting A Rule of Life (IVP) and Becoming A Healthy Church (Baker) and lives in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. Steve and his wife, Ruth, have two children, Nathan and Rebekah, and make their home in Lexington, MA.