Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 5

Mere Christianity Summarized, Part 5

(Book 3 : Christian Behavior, Chapters 7-9)

In Chapter 7, Lewis deals with forgiveness. He states that while he had said earlier that chastity was the most unpopular of the Christian virtues, he believed forgiveness may be more unpopular. See, Christianity says love you neighbor as yourself, but in Christianity your neighbor includes your enemy. Which means we come up against the fact we must forgive our enemy.

Lewis gives the extreme example of the Gestapo and thinking of an enemy in those terms. I thought in 2017, we could probably compare it to having a member of Isis murder one of your children. Lewis says that People get mad when they are told, “Well you need to forgive these people now.” And they answer, “Well, would you forgive if your family was killed by them?” Lewis responds that he’s not here to tell you what I could do in a certain situation. He’s here to tell you what Christianity is and forgiveness of enemies is one of the things Christianity is.

The Lord’s prayer states, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” There is no suggestion that we offer forgiveness on any other terms.  It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. We sort of have to work our way to forgiving our enemies. We start out by forgiving our spouse or children. Someone close to you for something they have said or done in the last week.

We must also understand what love our neighbor as our self means. But, first me must look at what it doesn’t mean. Well, I don’t always have a fondness for myself. So, it doesn’t mean I have to be affectionate or fond toward them. Do I think myself a wonderful, nice person? Well sometimes, but not always. So, loving my neighbor does not necessarily mean thinking of them in that way.

It my  clear sighted moments, not only do I know that I’m not a very nice man, but I know that I’m quite a nasty one. I look at some of the things I’ve done before with loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loath and hate some of the things my enemies do.Remember we hate the bad action, not the person. This seemed like quite a silly thought to Lewis until he realized he had been doing this with himself for years. There are plenty of things that he has done that he wishes he wouldn’t have done and hates. But he still loves himself. The very reason why I hated these things is because I love myself. Because I love myself I was very sorry I did these things.

We aught to hate evil and the terrible things these people do. However we ought to hate it in the same way we hate those things in ourselves. Hoping that someway this person can be cured and made human again if that is possible.

Loving your enemy does not mean not punishing them. Lewis does not believe (like in war or when a judge sentences someone for a crime) that loving your enemy does not mean not killing the enemy soldier or sentencing the prisoner to death. It’s an interesting distinction that when Jesus quotes the command, “thou shall not murder,” there’s the distinction in Greek between kill and murder. And all three times not to murder. As opposed to not to kill.John the Baptist never suggested that the soldiers coming to be baptized should leave the army neither did Christ to the centurion who came.

We Christians think that man lives forever. Therefore what really matters is those little knots or twists in the central inside part of the soul  that will turn us in the long run to a heavenly or hellish creature. We may kill if necessary, but must not hate and enjoy hating. We may punish if necessary, but must not enjoy it. In other words, something inside us, the feeling of resentment, the feeling that want’s to get one’s own revenge must be killed. (my analogy) Not that this magically happens, but like the little Whack-a-mole things that pop up at the arcade, every time one pops up you have to bang it with a hammer. With this feeling of revenge or hate, every time it pops up we have to bang it with a hammer (namely prayer).

In our heart we must wish that our enemy were not bad. Wish that he were cured. Wish good for him. Remember God just loves us just because we’re human. Not because there is anything good inside of us. We love our self just because we’re our self, not because of good inside of us. We must then apply this rule to all others and we will be forgiving and loving our enemies.

Chapter 8 is entitled “Great Sin.” There is no sin that is seen in more men, except they don’t know they have it, however no sin that men find more deplorable in others, and that is pride or self conceit. The virtue opposite of it in Christian morals is called humility. This is where the center of Christian morals lies. The utmost evil is pride above all others.

Pride leads to every other vice. It is an anti-God state of mind. Pride is competitive and therefore the more fault you find with others pride, probably the more prideful you are, because you’re upset they’re getting the attention you wanted. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. It’s the comparison that makes you proud. The pleasure of being above the rest. The pleasure of being richer, better looking, cleverer than the next man.

Let’s look at an example of this competitiveness with money. What people call greed is often pride. Certainly a person cane be greedy and want a bigger house, more vacations….but what makes somebody who makes $10 million dollars a year want to make $20 million dollars a year? At the point of $10 million dollars a year, they can already do whatever they want. Well, it’s pride. It’s to be richer and have more than the next guy. 

Still, more the wish for power. Because power is really what pride is. Nothing makes a man feel so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers. Pride always means enmity because  as long as there is one person richer, better looking, etc than you, then you always have that enemy you are trying to outdo.

As long as you are proud, you can never really know God. Because you only really know God when you realize He is everything and you are nothing at all. How can people full of pride say that they are worshipping God? Well, they are really worshipping a phantom God because what they do all the time, while saying they are nothing and humble, is thinking the whole time that God approves of them for how great they are. Which of course, the God that approves of them is their make believe God. They pay a penny’s worth of humility to this imaginary God and get a dollar’s worth of pride toward their fellow man.

Lewis says he believes it’s these people that Christ is talking of when he said they would preach in His names and cast out demons and yet at the end of the world he did not know them.

Anytime you are thinking that you are better than someone else, remember it is not God making you act that way, but the devil. Remember, being around God will make you feel one of two ways. You will completely forget about self and focus on Him and others. Or you will see yourself as the dirty, sinful person that you are. The devil is perfectly happy to see people becoming brave and chaste and self controlled, as long as the whole time he is setting up in you to be proud of all these virtues and be prideful. Because, this then overrides all the good things that are happening. It’s like seeing your cold cured, while finding out your diagnosed with cancer.

There are some common misconceptions about pride. Pleasure in being praised is not pride. For the pleasure here does not lie in who you are, but that you have pleased someone you wanted and rightly wanted to please. The trouble is when the thinking passes from I have pleased him and that’s great to what a fine person I must have been to have done so. The more you delight in yourself and the less you delight the praise, the worse you are becoming.

While being vain and wanting is not good, it is almost a child like problem. It shows that you still don’t think so highly of yourself, because you want others to affirm you. However, the real black, dark diabolical pride comes when you down on other so much, you do not care what they think about you. This does not mean that when we have it right that we care so much about what God things, that we do not care what others think about us. This is when you think so highly of yourself that why would you even care whether or not people praise you because you already know you got it.

Is it bad when you’re proud of your son or your school or your father? Is pride in this sense a sin? Well, what do we mean by proud of? In often cases we just mean we have a warm hearted admiration for and this is of course not a sin. But, it would be sinful if you take so much pride in your father or child or college you attended that you have an arrogance about it. However, even this is not as bad as having pride in just our self, because at least it is having pride in someone or something else. Of course, the problem still being that our pride should only come from God.

God does not tell you not to be prideful because he needs you to humble yourself and be proud of Him, but God wants you to be in relationship with Him and when you truly are you’re so humbled in a good way that you get rid of all the nonsense and things you hold on to be right with him. This humility makes that relationship, where we are truly free, possible.

What you think of a humble person is probably not accurate. Someone walking around, “woe is me, I’m so humble.” A truly humble person would probably be a cheerful person, intelligent chap who took a fine interest in what you had to say and if you felt any contentment toward them it would only be because they seemed to enjoy life so much. The reason he would enjoy life so much is because he would not be thinking about humility because he would not be thinking about himself at all.

The first step if you want humility is admitting and realizing you are proud, because if you think you are not conceited you are quite conceited indeed.

In chapter 9, Lewis focuses on charity. Charity is one of the three theological virtues. In the modern sense, charity means giving to the poor. But, in the Christian sense, charity means love. Remember love in the Christian sense does not mean an emotion, it means a state of the will. Christian love or charity for our neighbors is quite a different thing  then liking or affection. Natural liking or fondness of someone is not a sin nor a virtue. Though, natural liking should typically be encouraged, it would be quite wrong to think that the way to begin to show charitable love would be to begin to manufacture unnatural likings to all. Don’t waste your time figuring out whether or not you love your neighbor, act as if you did. And you’ll learn a great secret. When you behave as if you love someone, you will really come to love them. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking them even more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.

The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections and likings and that the Christian has only charity, but that the worldly man treats certain people kindly because he likes them and the Christian trying to treat everyone kindly finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on. Including people he could not even have imagined himself liking to begin with.

This same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Germans perhaps at first ill-treated the Jews because they hatted them.  Afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate and the more cruelly you will treat that person.

In other words, the goodness snowballs and so does the evil; the smallest good deed could snowball into something you never could have imagined being able to do, while the smallest evil doing the same.

We should have charity and love toward God. If we’re not feeling it, the same thing as with people, what would I do if I truly loved God? Think about it, go do it and you might find that you start truly loving God.

Remember Christian love is of the will. God is not judging us on feeling. We cannot create that. But, if we try to follow the commandment love God and love thy neighbor through acts of the will, that’s what God is looking for and he may or may not manufacture the love feeling for us. We can not control that.

The great thing to remember is that our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins or our indifference. And therefore it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

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Pride Comes Before The Twilight Zone

Daniel Foster stood looking out the window. From his corner office on the 50th floor he had an amazing view of downtown Manhattan. All of this, he thought to himself. All of this I have earned from the sweat of my brow. The long evening hours. The Saturdays and Sundays in the office. All of my hard work has really paid off. And of course my incredible negotiating skills and ability to quickly conduct extensive research didn’t hurt either.

Daniel chuckled as he turned away from the window and walked across the office to his desk. He took a seat in his cushy leather chair. It was 8:30 on a Friday night. But there was nothing odd about his being in his office that late. He had worked his way from junior to senior associate in record time at the second largest law firm in NYC. And then last year he had taken that next, huge step. Partner.

But Daniel was different than most partners. Instead of taking a breath and realizing he could finally relax a bit, he continued with the 100 hour work weeks as if he was still a junior associate fresh out of college. And with a merger between two companies each worth billions currently on the line, he new this weekend would be another where he saw very little of his plush apartment overlooking Central Park.

As Daniel got back to work on his laptop, his cell phone began buzzing. He looked down at the number. Really Steven, you have already left me 6 messages, he thought as he reluctantly took the call from his older brother.

“Hey Steve, what’s up?”

“What do you mean what’s up Danny? Didn’t you listen to any of my messages?”

“Yeah, I listened. But is she really that bad? I mean, over the last six weeks you’ve had me come rushing to the hospital four times saying that ‘this was going to be it.’ Then, I get there and it’s a false alarm. I’ve missed out on a ton of billable hours from all of these ‘emergency visits.’”

“Are you serious! Come on Danny. Your billable hours are more important than being by mom’s side when she passes?”

“Of course not,” Daniel answered without much conviction as he continued reading through a document on his computer. “But if it were just more certain when it would actually happen it would make things a lot easier.”

“Well, sorry little brother. My crystal ball is in the shop right now. But she is definitely not doing well. And I really think this could be it. The nurses keep coming in and giving her more pain medication. They say that all they are trying to do now is keep her comfortable until the end comes.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

Daniel hung up before his brother could say anything else and went back to his work. I’m sure I have at least a few hours before I need to get over there.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

At 10:00 Daniel rubbed his eyes and decided to check his e-mail. He needed to quit staring at the report he had been pouring over for hours. As he scrolled down past the e-mails from associates trying to show that they were also still hard at work at this late hour and past the obligatory invitation from the partners to join their Sunday golf outing that he never went to, something caught his eye. The sender line said Thomas Foster.

Weird, thought Daniel. That was dad’s name. But, of course since his dad had been dead for over a decade now it was impossible that the e-mail was from his father. But out of curiosity Daniel clicked on the e-mail with the subject line entitled Don’t you remember?

When he opened the e-mail there was a short message: Don’t ask how or try to explain it, but your old man is checking back in with you. Click on the video link. I think there is something you need to see. Love, Dad.

And below the message, sure enough, there was a video link. What in the world? Daniel thought to himself. Is this someone’s idea of a sick joke?

Daniel scrolled the cursor over the delete button. But there was something that just wouldn’t let him do it. Something that compelled him to go down and click on the link. When he did, he couldn’t believe his eyes. It was a home video. He was about 8 years old and he was out in the garden planting flowers with his mom.

But, this was not just weird, it was impossible. His family had not even owned a video camera until he was in his teens. Daniel didn’t know how this was happening, but it was undeniable that it was he and his mother on that computer screen.

“Mom, I’m getting pretty tired. Can we call it a day?”

“Well, honey,” she answered. “It’s up to you. But I know you really want to earn that money to buy yourself a new bike. And if we don’t finish pulling weeds and watering the flowers, then next week you won’t have very pretty flowers to sell in the front yard to earn money to get that bike.”

“Okay, mom. You’re right.”

Daniel watched as he and his mom continued to pull weeds from around the flowers, sprinkle fertilizer and pour water. He smiled thinking back to that summer. He had indeed earned the $40 he needed to buy his brand new Schwinn bicycle.

And even now he could still hear mom’s words the first time he rode the bike echo in his mind, “See honey, a little extra time and effort always pays off.”

The video had stopped and his phone buzzed again. It was Steve again, but this time just a text. If you were still planning on coming, don’t bother. The doctor says she has stabilized. He said she has at least a few more days….looks like you can keep racking up those billable hours.

Daniel started to type a reply, but then decided not to. What was the use? There was nothing he could say that would make the situation any better. He logged off his computer and started to pack up his briefcase. That e-mail and video really had him on edge. He needed to go home, fix himself a stiff drink and get some sleep. After all, he planned to be back into the office by 6:00 tomorrow morning.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

As Daniel was driving home, he tried to run through what he hoped to accomplish at the office tomorrow. This was his usual routine for a drive home. Silent car. No music. No phone calls. Just mentally preparing for what lay ahead the next day. But, this evening he was having trouble focusing. His mind kept replaying the video of he and his mom in the garden.

“Delilah, thanks for taking my call.”

Daniel jerked himself forward in his seat. Turned and looked in the passenger seat and the back seats of his car and then realized the voice was coming from his radio. The radio that he hadn’t turned on….

“Sure. Now tell me what’s your name and why you’re calling?”

“This is Gabriel. No last name. Just Gabriel.”

“Well, okay Gabriel,” the hostess chuckled. “I like to just go by Delilah as well.”

“My dedication is to my mom. You see, I’m a very successful corporate lawyer in New York City. I make mergers happen between billion dollar companies.”

“It does sound like you are doing quite well for yourself. And how does mom fit into all of this?”

“Well, Delilah. Back when I was in junior high I was sort of a mis-fit. Tried out for several sports teams and didn’t make them. Even went out for band and was actually asked not to come back because I couldn’t hit the right notes on my trumpet.”

“Wow! Sounds like a rough go for an adolescent.”

Daniel didn’t know what in the world was going on. But so far this Gabriel guy was giving a play by play of Daniel’s junior high experience to everyone listening to Soft Rock 104.5.

“Yeah Delilah, it was pretty rough. But then, one day when my mom was cleaning up some papers I had left lying around from school she saw one that caught her eye. It was for the debate team. And she called me over to her and said, ‘Gabe, I think this would be perfect for you. Why don’t you give it a try?’ I was hesitant at first, but eventually I agreed. I figured what have I got to lose? Well, turns out I was pretty good at it. And as I continued into high school I kept getting better. Anytime I had a debate meet coming up, mom would practice with me ahead of time. She would research the opposing view and debate me at home with my dad serving as judge.”

No! This can’t be happening. Daniel didn’t know how, but he knew for sure now that Gabriel was not telling his own story; he was telling Daniel’s!

What an amazing mom! And how were her debating skills?”

“Let me tell you. I never faced a harder debate opponent than mom. Abd since she would do such a thorough job arguing the other side, I was always so prepared for my meets, I never lost! In fact, my senior year of high school I was the state champion at the most prestigious meet in the state of New York.”

“And I bet those skills of persuasion you learned through debate sure do come in handy at the negotiating table.”

“Exactly Delilah, exactly.”

“Well thanks for calling in Gabriel and I have the perfect song for your mom.”

As Boyz II Men began to soulfully sing A Song for Momma Daniel stared straight ahead. If he hadn’t just heard it for himself he wouldn’t believe it. But, a man had just called in and just precisely described his life as an adolescent. He pushed the accelerator down a little further as the thought of that drink was becoming more and more appealing.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Daniel unlocked the door and walked into his apartment. He tossed his briefcase on the couch and immediately went over and poured his drink. He gulped it straight down like he used to do in his college days and poured a second. Usually he had only one drink and he slowly sipped it while watching a little ESPN to unwind. But tonight he had finished his second drink and he still hadn’t even taken off his shoes. He put down a third and could feel himself begin to loosen up and relax. He skipped the ESPN and went to the shower.

After a quick shower, Daniel slid in under to his silk sheets. I just need to get some sleep. My head will be clear in the morning and I can think this all through. I’m sure it will make more sense in the morning.

As he always did, Daniel fell asleep quickly. He worked hard and slept little. But when he did sleep, it was a deep sleep. From the moment his head hit the pillow until the moment his phone alarm rang at 4:30 the next morning, he was dead to the world in a deep and dreamless sleep.

Tonight, though, tonight would be different for Daniel. For as Daniel slept, he had the most vivid dream of his life. If a dream is what it could be called, for Daniel would always insist it was no more a dream than the unexplainable video on his computer or the unsolicited call-in request on the radio.

It began with Daniel standing by himself on a street corner at an intersection. He could see the street signs above hime: Senate Avenue and Campus Lane. He was back at his old stomping grounds at the university he attended for graduate school. And he was even wearing a sweatshirt with his school mascot, the Kicking Coyotes, on it.

As he stood there, a man Daniel did not recognized, dressed in all white, came up and extended his hand. Daniel shook hands with the man.

The man in white smiled a large smile and spoke first, “Hi my names Lucifer, but all my friends call me Lou. Why don’t you come and take a walk with me. I have something to show you here at your old stomping ground.”

Daniel answered, “I think I’d rather not.” But just as he had no choice in what played in the video on his computer or what was said on the radio call-in, he also seemed to have no choice but to follow Lou.

He followed Lou down Campus Lane and then they took a left onto Valley Drive where the library was located. It seemed that Lou was talking the whole time, but that Daniel could not make out his words. However, as if unable to control his own will, he just nodded and smiled walking just a few steps behind his eager guide.

As they got to library, Daniel and Lou entered and went to a table near the back of the library. “Now just sit down and watch,” Lou said as he took a seat on a bench in the corner. Daniel sat down next to him. “You will be able to see and hear everything that goes on. But, no one will be able to see or hear us.”

Just then, Daniel spotted himself, only 20 years younger, walking over to a corner table with a huge stack of books. His younger self sat down and immediately put his head down on the  table.

“That’s me.” Daniel said to Lou. “I was working on my final term paper to complete my graduate degree and I was completely stuck. It was due in just a couple of days and even though I had been working on it for weeks I was no where close to being finished.”

“Yes, I know,” Lou said with a nostalgic smile. “I really thought this would be the end of your dream to become a lawyer.” Then Lou’s smile turned into a scowl. “Until she had to show up.”

In walked Daniel’s mom. She was carrying a paper bag and travel mug. She sat down in the seat across from college-aged Daniel and he lifted his head. “Mom! What are are you doing here?”

“Well, son. I know you too well. And when we talked last night and you were saying all that stuff about being almost done with your paper and how it had turned out to be easier than you thought….I knew you were lying. So this morning I just got in the car and drove over. Now have some milk and cookies to cheer you up and then let’s get started.”

“Lou, I still remember that day so well. She told me that all that research she had done as my debate partner had taught her some shortcuts. She showed me some speed reading strategies and a great way of synthesizing information from multiple sources and in no time I was back on track. By the time she left that evening I was pretty much just putting the finishing touches on it. I still can’t believe I ended up with an B+ on a paper that I had barely even started before mom showed up.”

“I know, I know,” Lou said sulkily. “Don’t rub it in. Now, you remember this night and don’t ever let anyone tell you I never do any good deeds.” Lou got up and started to walk toward the library exit. But before he went out the door he added, “Now, on the other hand, if you choose to ignore my visit, you will have a LONG time to get to know my other side.”

Daniel sat straight up in bed. He was soaked in sweat and breathing heavy. And when he looked down, instead of his plaid pajamas he saw none other a kicking coyote on his shirt. He looked at his phone. 4:29. He quickly turned off the alarm before it could begin its intolerable chiming. He laid his head back down on his pillow. And for the first time in months slept in.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

When he awoke again and looked at his phone the time read 8:15. He couldn’t believe how good he felt. Who knew a few extra hours could  rejuvenate you so quickly?

Daniel ate a bowl of oatmeal and drank his morning coffee. He got dressed. But instead of a three piece suit, he put on a pair of jeans and a sweater. And instead of heading north toward his downtown office, he headed south.

He parked in the Metro General Hospital parking garage and made his way up the 5th floor.  He went into room 512 where his mother lay. No one else was in there. Daniel was sure Steve would be there soon, but he was glad he had made it there first. He sat down next to the bed and took his sleeping mother’s hand. She looked so frail. Her hand felt so bony. As a few tears began to run down his cheeks, she opened her eyes.

“Steve is that you?” she asked softly.

“No, mom. It’s your baby boy. It’s Danny.”

With that she seemed to perk up and opened her eyes a little wider.

“Danny. I’m so glad you came. I’ve missed you.” Her voice was beginning to sound a little stronger.

“I’m glad I’m here too mom. I’m sorry it’s been so long. I brought you a little treat.” He set a cream stick and a cup of coffee on the tray next to her. “From Don’s Donut Shack. Your favorite.”

With Danny’s help she sat up and began to enjoy her life’s one vice. “I never could resist,” she chuckled. “How are you honey? How is work? I’m surprised you’re not there now.”

“I’m doing fine mom. And work is good. Working on a huge merger. But, I’ve actually decided to cut back on my hours a bit. You know, spend some time doing some other things.”

Mom sighed. “That would be nice Danny. But I’ve heard that one before.”

“I really mean it this time. I’m gonna start coming in to see you more. And get back to exercising. And maybe even get in a round or two of golf.”

At that his mom let out roaring laugh.

“Okay, well maybe not so much with the golf. But, really mom. I mean it this time. And mom…”

“Yes, Danny?”

“I want to thank you. Thank you for making me into the attorney, and the man, I am today. I know if it weren’t for you I would never have made it.”

“Nonsense, dear. Your hard work and long hours have paid off.”

“Yes, I know mom. You don’t want any credit. That was one trait I didn’t pick up from you…humility.”

Daniel continued to chat with his mom as she enjoyed her not so healthy breakfast. When she began to get sleepy and nod off, Daniel kissed her on the forehead and promised he would be back to visit again that evening and then headed into the office.

At the office he set an alarm on his phone for 3:00. And when it went off, he got up and went to his apartment, put on some sweats and headed out for a jog.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

And Daniel did go back and visit his mother that evening. In fact, Daniel continued to go back to visit with his mom every evening around 6:00 when he left work.

About a week later, Daniel felt his phone vibrating. It was Steve. This is really it buddy. Mom’s asking for you.

Daniel stood up from the negotiating table that seated the heads of the two companies and their lawyers that would make his firm millions of dollars as soon as this deal was finalized and said, “I’m sorry gentlemen. I’m going to have to excuse myself. A family matter has just arisen that I have to attend to immediately.”

Not more than an hour later Daniel’s mother passed away peacefully with each of her two sons seated at her bedside holding her hands.