Admiration or Imitation?

Written by on April 6, 2011

We face tremendous pressure in our lives today to be simply spectators of thisJesus.  But faithful living has never been a spectator sport.  Over 150 years ago Danish Christian thinker Søren Kierkegaard emphasized this by drawing a contrast between being an admirer and being an imitator. He wrote:

What, then, is the difference between an admirer and an imitator?  An imitator is or strives to be what he admires, and an admirer keeps himself personally detached, consciously or unconsciously does not discover that what is admired involves a claim upon him to be or at least to strive to be what is admired.[i]

We can become too self-satisfied in our admiration of Jesus and thereby keep his claim or demand upon our lives at a safe distance.  But Jesus is seeking something far different than mere admirers or knowledgeable spectators.  Jesus calls us to appreciate who he is to such an extent that we seek to imitate him day-in-day-out.  It requires getting out of the stands and onto the field to follow him…This is after all what the Spirit is doing in our lives—inviting and mentoring us to move beyond spectatorship and to live into Jesus’ loving way in the world (Ephesians 3:16-17). And at the heart of this invitation is the person of Jesus, both our savior and our teacher, who is calling us to follow and learn and imitate just as he did with Peter and Thomas and Mary and Paul.  Jesus has much to teach us disciples about life. May we have the good sense and courage to move beyond admiring Jesus to imitating his way of life…

And then Jesus said, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like the wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)

[i] Søren Kierkegaard, The Essential Kierkegaard, edited by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 384.

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