Keller and Kempis on loving Christ

Yesterday I read an article by Tim Keller titled “The Revolutionary Christian Heart” that has preoccupied my mind ever since. Keller discusses the struggle of heart and mind in various times of history and worldviews. He states,

“For the Greeks and Romans, the great human struggle was between the mind (which they believed was resident in the soul) and the passions (which they believed were resident in the body.) If you wanted to achieve strength, courage, self-control, and wisdom, you learned to sublimate the emotions to the dictates of reason.

For modern people, the great struggle is almost the reverse. We believe our deepest feelings are ‘who we really are’ and we must not repress or deny them. The great human struggle is between the emotions and a repressive society that so often stands in the way of self-expression and realization.

The Bible teaches “none of the above.” It says the human struggle happens within a single entity — the human heart. The main human struggle is not between the heart and something else, but between forces that tear it in different directions. The great battle is deciding to what your heart’s greatest love, hope, and trust will be directed.”

This had led me to meditate on what it means to love Christ solely. I then opened Thomas a Kempis’ classic work, The Imitation of Christ. In it he writes,

“Jesus Christ must be loved alone with a special love for He alone, of all friends, is good and faithful. For Him and in Him you must love friends and foes alike, and pray to Him that all may know and love Him.

Never desire special praise or love, for that belongs to God alone Who has no equal. Never wish that anyone’s affection be centered in you, nor let yourself be taken up with the love of anyone, but let Jesus be in you and in every good man. Be pure and free within, unentangled with any creature.

You must bring to God a clean and open heart if you wish to attend and see how sweet the Lord is. Truly you will never attain this happiness unless His grace prepares you and draws you on so that you may forsake all things to be united with Him alone” (Book 2 The Interior Life, Chapter Eight)

This is a high call indeed and I have a long way to go.

Categories: Books, Kempis, Loving Christ, Loving God, The Imitation of Christ, Tim Keller

5 replies

  1. When I read the Kempis quote, I feel the same way as I feel when I read the verse that says “Be holy for I am holy” … (it’s impossible!). How do you go through life never wanting too much of anyone’s affections… or allowing yourself to be taken up with the love of anyone?

  2. But as we love Christ preeminently all other loves will self-correct.

  3. Thanks for sharing Keller’s excellent article, Dr. Fabricatore. From Augustine’s Confessions to the contemporary church, a “biblical understanding of the heart is culturally revolutionary.” May I regularly and faithfully explore my past, my history, and the internal motivations that move me in light of the glorious gospel of Christ.

    • Thanks Flip for visiting and commenting. Good to have you in Greek class too. I look forward to meeting up sometime soon since we are practically neighbors!

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