The Living Dead

Every once in a while I sit down to plow through classic Christian literature. I say "plow" because often the authors of centuries past use language and phraseology that requires work to read with immediate understanding.

They obviously didn't know about fast food Christianity.

I've just begun a classic called The Imitation of Christ by Thomas á Kempis. I didn't get any farther than the introduction before I was caught "hook, line and sinker."

Here is one of the gems. The editor, Rosalie de Rosset, writes: "á Kempis is particularly strong on the importance of Christians knowing themselves. 'We can not trust ourselves too much, because grace oftentimes is lacking in us and understanding also. There is little light in us, and that which we have, we quickly lose by our negligence.' He points out the irony that we are moved by passions that we think are real, and that, by implication, may not be at all, and while we 'quickly feel and weigh what we suffer at the hands of others,' we don't pay much attention to what others suffer at our hands…á Kempis is consumed with the belief that most of our problems come from being narcissists, needing power and attention, and wanting to be comfortable in this life…á Kempis's agonizing understanding [is] that his culture (let alone ours) does not, as we say today, 'get it.' People have little urgency about living an undistracted life; they have little notion of what it takes to be a Christian in the tradition of Christ; they would rather any day feel good rather than be good, feel spiritual rather than know God."

All this and I haven't got past the introduction yet!

á Kempis was born in the late 1300s yet the truth of what he said back then is still, sadly, true today. As I sit and write this what I really feel like doing is going off into a corner for a good cry. The state of the human heart, even when it beats in the breasts of those who offer spiritual leadership, is not a pretty sight. As a Kempis says, the devil never sleeps, the flesh is never dead, so we must always be vigilant.

My verse for this morning is amazingly appropriate (God's like that!). Paul reminds us that the owner of our "house" is in residence and we have to live by a new standard rather than by the old one from which he has freed us.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" —Galatians 2:20.

It seems a contradiction. We are dead, yet we live. Unhappily our position in Christ is not always reflected in our practice. We claim that we are "only human" as though that were an excuse for negligence and lack of vigilance. Because I so easily fall willingly into the trap myself, I find it hard to believe that being "human" is a legitimate excuse.

Someone once said (I think it might have been my mother): "If you really want to do it, you'll find a way."

So I ask myself again today if I REALLY want to be like Christ. If the answer is "yes," then I must be more vigilant. And I can if I choose.

The Imitation of Christ is published by Moody Publishers, Chicago.


  1. It seems the more sanctified we become, the more aware of our own sinfulness.... which leads to a greater thankfulness for God's love and grace. And you are so right...we have to make a choice to fight the good fight - the war is usually within.

  2. Oh - this book sounds good - and, as usual, you have made me think about my motives and devotion. Great stuff, my friend.


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