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.