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Tempering Thomas á Kempis in our Imitation of Christ

By January 19, 2016 Blog

“Why is it that such a lot of things get on your nerves, and are always disturbing your peace of mind? Because you’ve never really died to self, never really weaned yourself away from earthly things…”- Thomas A’Kempis

Yes! Yes, and AMEN, Yes, BUT

I’m challenged to think that Jesus was a bit annoyed often BECAUSE He was focused on Heavenly things. “Angry without a cause” is the condition. Too often we are annoyed at the person holding up the checkout line, or because we aren’t getting OUR way. SELF-centered. SELF-ish. In this way, a Kempis is correct.

But Christ was angry, grieved, one could even say annoyed, and even overturning tables and whipping folks out of the Temple precisely because He was focused on HEAVENLY things while His people were abandoning or even abusing Heavenly things, whether the shadow (Herod’s Temple) or the substance of that “shadow”, Jesus Christ, the Temple made without hands that He Himself would raise up in three days after they set out to abuse and destroy the most Heavenly thing on earth… Emanuel, God with them.

So, how do we reconcile Jesus the Just vs Jesus the Merciful? Yes, at times He reacted so strongly (toward Pharisees and money changers) and at other times He lets people off the hook (woman caught in adultery). Both were sinners. Both were caught in the act. How shall we obey Ephesians 5:1 which commands us to be imitate God and to walk in love like Christ?

Maybe the answer is found in the following verse 3 where Paul says “but don’t allow any willful ongoing sin among you”. Maybe James and Peter when they quoted a Proverbs 3 “God resists the PROUD but gives grace to the HUMBLE.”

Sin is not the whole story. Our response to our own sin is.

If we are broken, contrite, humble, and truly repentant, God pours out GRACE and we are forgiven freely. But if we harden our hearts, shut our ears to the whisper of the Holy Spirit urging us to have a change of heart, God will RESIST us!

Is this not how Paul dealt with the churches and people who were disobedient? Yes, to those he was resistant, defiant, and annoyed. He still loved them, and in fact kept trying to bring them to repentance much like our Lord. Didn’t Jesus behave this way to the seven churches in Revelation? To some He was gracious. To others He was resistant.

The underlying motive was always love and redemption.

Jesus Christ bids us to die to self, to what rights we think we have in and for ourselves and become servants to all. But in so doing, let’s not throw out the authority we have been granted to bring about peace and justice which requires us to, for instance, go to our brother or sister if they trespass against us. Why? Because of our wounded pride? God forbid! Rather because of our wounded brother or sister, because soldiers don’t leave each other behind, and because restoration through gentleness or by force (pulling one forcibly from the flames, as James puts it) is the very embodiment of the love of Christ, which is the Imitation of Christ!

Jeff Tobler

Author Jeff Tobler

Jeff Tobler is the founder and director of Eternal Promises, joyfully proclaiming that Messiah, Jesus Christ, died for our sins, defeated death, and is now King and Lord over all.

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