The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

I recently re-read Thomas a Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ after fifteen years. The years that passed made the book that much sweeter. It was made sweeter still by the updated translation which made the book that much more powerful. At over 600 years, The Imitation of Christ sparkles with clarity and application, time apparently hasn't worn any sharpness off its edges.

If The Imitation of Christ was merely the second of its four books, it would be a masterpiece. The second book, titled, “The Interior Life,” challenges and consoles, cuts and bandages. A Kempis's book is a strong call to the imitation of our Savior, and yet is seasoned with profound grace. It is, quite simply, a book every Christian should read.

Here is a taste of a Kempis's wisdom.

On grace:

“O true and heavenly grace, without which our own merits are nothing, and our natural gifts of no account! Neither arts nor riches, beauty nor strength, genius nor eloquence have any value in Your eyes, Lord, unless allied to grace. For the gifts of nature are common to good men and bad alike, but grace or love are Your especial gift to those whom You choose, and those who are sealed with this are counted worthy of life everlasting.”

On love and Jesus:

“Let all things be loved for the sake of Jesus, but Jesus for His own sake.”

On the cross:

“The cross, therefore, is always ready; it awaits you everywhere. No matter where you may go, you cannot escape it, for wherever you go you take yourself with you and shall always find yourself. Turn where you will—above, below, without, or within—you will find a cross in everything, and everywhere you must have patience if you would have peace within and merit an eternal crown.”

On Christ’s call to come to him:

“My child, I am the Lord Who gives strength in the day of trouble. Come to Me when all is not well with you. Your tardiness in turning to prayer is the greatest obstacle to heavenly consolation, for before you pray earnestly to Me you first seek many comforts and take pleasure in outward things. Thus, all things are of little profit to you until you realize that I am the one Who saves those who trust in Me, and that outside of Me there is no worth-while help, or any useful counsel or lasting remedy.”

Thomas a Kempis spent most of his life in the cloister and wrote this book to novices in the cloister. He surely would be amazed at the longevity and breadth of those who have benefited from his instruction. But it speaks to how deeply a Kempis draws from the timeless well of God’s Word that his words hold the power they do today. I encourage you to benefit from them as well.