AN ETERNAL CLASSIC OF CHRISTIAN LITERATURE
THE IMITATION OF CHRIST
THOMAS H. KEMPIS
Inspiring and daunting at the same time, The Imitation of Christ is one of the oldest and most popular devotionals in history, as well as a classic of Christian literature. Its influence remains strong in the Church of this day – six hundred years after its publication – and with good reason, too.
EVERY DAY WE are overwhelmed with messages that stimulate our pride. Mass media promote products and services that allegedly make us better and happier; social networks turn us into celebrities, whether we have a hundred followers or a million. We live in a constant hustle, trying to be successful in our lives, believing we have control over them.
The work attributed to Thomas à Kempis goes against everything that moves today’s society. With harsh but sincere language, The Imitation of Christ reminds the reader of what he really is: a fragile, mortal being. Control is an illusion. Fame is an illusion. The sinful condition of the human being and his dependence in God are quite real, however, and Kempis does not flee from this reality; in fact, he encourages the reader to embrace it with a humble and broken heart, a heart that seeks God’s will alone.
The author highlights the importance of our interior life in the walk with Jesus. The Christian must be absolutely humble and obedient, with a love for Christ greater than the love for the self. As human beings, we are weak and unstable; we depend on God’s grace and power to galvanize us: “How great is the frailty of human nature which is ever prone to evil!” Kempis does not ignore the hardship ascribed to the decision of following Jesus’ example; in fact, he raises the bar even more: “Realize that you must lead a dying life; the more a man dies to himself, the more he begins to live unto God.”
One of the most interesting characteristics of this book is the dialogue between “(The Voice of) Christ” and “The Disciple”, a tool Kempis uses to strengthen his message. By adopting the role of “The Disciple”, the reader becomes a key part of the teaching and identifies with the character’s prayers and difficulties.
It should be noted that this “disciple” seems to based on the author’s own experience, as the following quote indicates: “How wise was Your warning to beware of men; that a man’s enemies are those of his own household; that we should not believe if anyone says: ‘Behold he is here, or behold he is there.’ I have been taught to my own cost, and I hope it has given me greater caution, not greater folly.”
With a striking, severe depiction of the true follower of Jesus, The Imitation of Christ continues to test and inspire thousands upon thousands of believers all around the world. This is a devotional that intimidates but also educates, with a powerful and lasting message to the Church of our days.