Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Imitating and knowing Christ

There is a clear difference between knowing about Jesus, and actually knowing Him. If it is our ethic to immitate Him, it is essential that we also know Him. It is difficult for me to immitate George W. Bush. I could repeat a few of his phrases, dress like him, and do my hair like him. I could possibly study his policy decisions in the past, and make statements about what he would say given different sets of circumstances. But in none of these things am I immitating him. To imitate someone is to pick up their habits. Habits, by definition, are actions done without thinking. I have internalized a great many of my father's habits. Some vices, and several virtues. In the case of paternitiy we say that the progeny has "come by" such habits "honestly." I want to spend enough time with Jesus that I pick up His habits.

Many books are written about ethical dilemmas. Often the end is to derive a set of rules, with defined conditions and "correct" responses to said conditions. Confucianism may be the most elaborate collection of such an ethic. But this method is patently pagan. Who gets the glory from such an ethic? Only the one who can keep all the rules. But, who can even know all the rules? It is exceedingly difficult. Government positions in China were rewarded to those students who could best demonstrate mastery in knowing and keeping these rules.
As Christians, we are released from a plethora of precepts. We have but one law, to imitate Christ. He receives the glory, both from our successes and our failures at imitating Him. We no longer have to keep a list of rules ready in our minds to avoid mistakes. Instead, we learn by imitation how to behave. By developing habits, we don't think about what we are doing. We don't consider each circumstance seperately. We act out of our renewed mind.
This also is economising. We like specialization of labor because there are gains to be realized in making an activity mechanical. Even stuffing envelopes becomes faster and more efficient the more one does it. The same is true for behaving virtuously, when we can respond immediately out of habit to a situation we respond more quickly, and with less moral scruple than if the instance had to be considered individually.

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