by Zach Kincaid
Last week's readings from A Year with C.S. Lewis focused on several radical commands of Jesus - to love enemies, to love neighbors like ourselves and to forgive as broadly as the east is from the west. In the heat of the summer as Pentecost Sundays meander on in a sure rhythm, it's challenging to refocus on the radical core of the Gospel. I'm appreciative of these readings from Mere Christianity. Here's a synopsis:
Does your experience suggest that virtue has come easy or are you nagged by grievous sins that cause you to know how wretched you are? The former is deceitful and the latter is a testimony to the truth. We are in fact all in the second category and can only find virtue through Christ in us.
Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Lewis asks, "How do I love myself?" He says we love ourselves knowing that we are far from perfect and far from descent.
We love ourselves with grace and with a level of humility and we are to love others the same way. It doesn't suggest we blanket love without any nod toward the right, but rather our love means we want all things to be redeemed.
The hope that we should have is for the good, whether in headline stories or on the block we live. Lewis makes the observation that sometimes when a story is not exhaustively bad we wish it were, perhaps to make ourselves feel better. That will "make us into little devils," he says.
As a Christian Lewis believed a person lives forever. There is no joy to be taken in hatred nor punishment nor killing, even, according to Lewis, each are necessary at times. "In other words," he says, "something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that wants to get one's own back, must be simply killed." We must wish good for our enemies, that he/she may be cured of ill thinking or evil in either this world or the next. (I suppose this goes for us too, as we are likely someone's enemy as well.)
Loveability should not determine love demonstrated. No matter the "self," we are to love. How does God love us? Lewis answers: "Not for any nice, attractive qualities we think we have, but just because we are the things called selves." We are his creation and the goodness he sees in that "self" quality, is something he chooses to love and, in so doing, beckon us to be his own.
The theory of forgiveness is not the same as actually having an occasion to forgive. Lewis presents the Gestapo as an example of the seriousness of forgiveness. It doesn't end. "I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it," he says. "And there, right in the middle of it, I find 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.' There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms."
I know I could very easily find Mere Christianity and read it, but digesting small bits that carry throughout the day offers a devotional, that, when brought through Scripture, I hope inspire change and growth in me.