Thursday, February 12, 2009

Asking, with C.S. Lewis: Is this Christian thing supposed to be hard, or easy?

A small group I’m part of recently met and talked about part of the C.S. Lewis classic Mere Christianity, in which he explores the question, “Is Christianity hard or easy?”

Our typical starting point in considering the Christian life, says Lewis, is quite naturally with our own interests and desires – some of which we recognize are probably good and should be encouraged, and some of which are not so good and ought to be abandoned.

“But we are hoping all the time that when all the demands have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes.”

Unfortunately, this approach is bound to end in frustration. "The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered at every turn, will get angrier and angrier. In the end you will either give up trying to be good, or else become ... a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish."

The good news and the bad news is that the Christian life doesn’t work that way. Jesus doesn’t want part of our time, part of our money, part of our service. He asks for the whole enchilada.

“No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked. The whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead.”

So it’s no wonder the scriptures sometimes describe the Jesus way as harder and sometimes as easier, than other approaches to life; it is both.

But the compromise we are longing for – having it both ways – is harder.

“In fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just recently finished this book. Marvelous thoughts.

I hope your travels are going well. God bless!