Tuesday, August 21, 2012

C. S. Lewis penetrates another thick skull

Have you ever read through a book where you've had to set it down and just pant for a bit, perhaps roll your eyes and holler at a family member about some recent tidbit that finally penetrated your brain? They might nod their head and smile condescendingly, probably because it's the same concept they've been trying to explain to you for six weeks. The instant I finished G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy I simply had to run wild in the backyard, jumping on the trampoline, picking roses (bloody fingers to show for it), and swinging into the overgrown cherry trees. It was serious.

I listened to a lecture recently where the speaker was saying how we couldn't get away from language or words. But not because we're chained to the ABCs and semicolons. Spoken words and black scribbles are our wings to fly.
So, there...you should feel like a lunatic feather dancing around your backyard after you finish a good book. ;-)

I reread Mere Christianity this summer and I as I was tearing through I could barely believe I'd heard this stuff before...even though I know more people than just C. S. Lewis have been trying to smash it into my concrete noggin. I recently got over my moral qualms about writing in books, which means this tome is crowded with underlines, exclamation marks, smiley faces, lopsided stars, scribbled margin notes and questions for C. S. Lewis whenever we should meet.

One of the biggest points in Mere Christianity that really whacked me over the head this time, was an extremely obvious concept that shapes all of Christian life—becoming like Jesus.
Don't judge. You know how you can read something once and then another time and swear it was worded differently the first time? Really we are the reordered words.
One of the passages in the Bible that tries to tell us about all this, is Ephesians 4. The Apostle Paul talks about what we were, unbelievers walking in all sorts of sin. We can't live that way anymore (v 17), so God is doing something new in us, remaking us in the stature and fullness of Christ (v 13). This is what's happening now and what we will be like in the future. 

Being a Christian is following Jesus, continually putting away the old self that doesn't belong to us anymore, reshaping our thought processes and the eyes through which we see the world, and aggressively putting on the new self—holiness and righteousness—the likeness of God. (v 22-24)

Much of C. S. Lewis genius is encased in his ability to write out an illustration of a familiar or maybe difficult concept in a manner that brings it home in an entirely unique way. And that's what he does here. From cover to cover, Mere Christianity sketches out and puts some flesh on our calling—the Spirit recreating us to be like Jesus. Not simple adherence to a set of rules, but instead a life that is more like a painting of a portrait. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Discipleship that we are not to be ruled by our conscience, but by the will of Jesus. As days and times of sanding and remolding go by, the character and shape of our Savior becomes more and more evident in us.

If this is the goal—if this is the single purpose of new life—than we must pray for, seek, and encourage this “infection.” Every thought, word, and action should be a reflection of Jesus, the true, real New Man. This is about doing what we know as right even when we don’t feel like it and it is about totally recreating our impulses. 
What we do when someone demands our time, accuses us, cuts in front of us on the highway. How we act to unbelievers, to children, to our friends. It not only changes our actions, but turns our thought patterns upside down (or right side up, as the case may be).

Jesus is our Savior, and also our teacher, our model, our entire curriculum and key to understanding that world.

You may say (especially if you are in an English frame of mind)--this all sounds very cheeky, pretending we're Jesus. It is. We're hopelessly confused and messed up and all gritty with sin. But this is exactly what God commands—Be like Jesus. Don't worry, I planted the virus and I'm going to make sure it takes over. Keep your eyes on Me.

"God looks at you as if you were a little Christ: Christ stands beside you to turn you into one. I daresay this idea of divine make-believe sounds rather strange at first. But, is it so strange really? Is not that how the higher thing always raises the lower? A mother teachers her baby to talk by talking to it as if it understood long before it really does. We treat our dogs as if they were 'almost human': that is why they really become 'almost human' in the end."
-C. S. Lewis

He can and will make us into brilliant mirrors reflecting Christ's character and light when our eyes are focused in the right place. This isn’t “mere” Christianity. This is radical. 

Most of us have Mere Christianity sitting on our shelves. I recommend you pick it up an read through all those bite sized chapters.Most everything in this post is stolen from Lewis' chapters Faith, Toy Soldiers, and Let's Pretend, and he says it all so much better.
...thus rambles my slow brain. Grateful for great men and a mind capable of growing.
God is good.
The Gospel is endless
and beautiful.


Jennoelle said...

And this confirms that I really really need to read Mere Christianity. I actually have it out from the library at the moment and started the first chapter--so yeah, I need to get on that. C.S. Lewis is a genius.

Hana - Marmota said...

I don't holler at family members. Very often, I just laugh.
You made me laugh.

Sadly, I can't find my copy of Mere Christianity. I have all the C.S. Lewis books in one place, but this one eludes me.

Hannah said...

Oh yes! I felt the same way about both books. And what a wonderful message you made of it. Yes yes yes! Amen sister! :)

Happy Homemaker said...

I'm in the middle of it and really enjoying it!

Elizabeth Joy said...

Me thinks I shall read it.

Caleb said...

I can relate to all of this, Orthodoxy and Mere Christianity.

I've read MC several times but on my last reading (earlier this year) something dawned on me. Since those chapters were originally weekly radio addresses, that meant the public had to wait a week between each one. My next reading of MC will be the same way. I don't think I've done the work nearly enough justice by going on to the next chapter without having let the last one "sink in" better.

I think this one might be better taken in courses.