Religion Column: Imitation

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 8, 2017

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

Recently seen in furniture store ad: “Come and get yours now! We have recently received a HUGE shipment of genuine imitation leather couches. Quantities are limited, so don’t miss this tremendous opportunity.”

If we read the ad quickly, it sounds most enticing. Here we presume, much to our peril, that the couch is of similar quality as the real stuff, and that ‘imitation’ is only a word, without any real substance.

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After all, we justify, has not modern chemistry produced an equal? Say we go to the aforementioned store, find a salesman and ask about the advertised sofa and, with breathless anticipation, saunter over to the furniture section.

When we arrive, it is clear that the items in question are of an seemingly inferior quality. The stitching does not line up, the colors are mismatched and the feel of the couch is of cheap plastic. The salesman assures us, much to seemingly sooth our trepidations, that we are viewing one of the best bargains on the planet and there is nothing to fear.

So, armed with this biased opinion, we take the plunge. Putting hard earned dollars on the line, and the rest on the credit card, a delivery date is set. The day before the delivery, the family room is cleaned out, with the well-used, old, tired, lumpy and soon replaced couch taken to the curb. All is ready for the big day. After all, it is not very often we get a new piece of furniture.

When the delivery men arrive, they bring the item into the house. After they are gone, and this time without the salesman’s banter, we take a closer look. We find the construction to wholly inferior.

The frame is twisted and flimsy, the feet are loose and not well attached. Each of the arms is somehow. ‘different.’ Slowly, the realization is that imitation has many meanings, and one of them does not mean equal.

In our world, there are many things which purport to be the ‘real deal,’ when they are mere imitations of what is true reality. Thomas a Kempis was a renowned theologian who wrote in the 15th century a work entitled, “The Imitation of Christ.”

These extraordinary pages contain remarkable guidance and insights into living a Christian life.The first chapter is entitled, ‘The Imitation of Christ and contempt for the vanities of the world.’

Here we have cogent insights to approaching our real Christ-centered selves and our place with Him. It is worth a look.

We must note, however, that the very best we can do is to be imitators. Like the poorly-made couch, we too fall short.

The best we can do is only try to be the real thing, and our only approach is being ‘real’ through Jesus Christ. Our spiritual decisions rely upon us being well informed and cautious. Today, there are many self-aggrandized ‘salesman’ pushing their own brand of what it takes to be a Christian in this, so-called, modern word.

Whether they are pushing a publication, pulpit, cheap promise, or philosophy, it is frequently a poor imitation.

When we take a closer look at our spiritual selves, as we are called to often do, we are called to make a determination. Are we, like the couch, merely filling up space and time, with a shoddy build? Or, are we regularly improving the stuff and substance of our commitment to Christ? While each item is an imitation, the longevity depends upon the construction.