Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mere Christianity

The weather outside is frightful.... yeah, it is. A week or so ago I managed to get on an airplane headed to Washington state with a stop in Minneapolis. Unfortunately the weather and de-icing delayed my departure. With that delay came a missed flight. Since the rest of the flights were full to Washington, I hopped back on another plane toward home. It was a Minnesota day trip. It was also my first time in Minnesota. One of these days I will go back and see something more than the airport.
Christmas Pond, Duluth, Minnesota
While travelling I usually download a book from Audible to listen to, and on this particular trip that book was Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I've never been a fiction reader. No idea why. Honestly, the whole Narnia business isn't something I've really cared for as an adult. When I was a kiddo, I did really like the cartoon. I picked this book not because I wanted to read C.S. Lewis but more because others has given it positive reviews, and a lot of Christian organizations seem to push C.S. Lewis... a lot. I figured it wasn't very fair to have a somewhat negative opinion of an author if I've never really read his books on his beliefs. I had also heard over the last year that J.R.R. Tolkien had a big influence on C.S. Lewis's faith. I have to admit I found that a little funny and a little odd for a two reasons. The first reason deals with wizards, magic, and the like. Fantasy books never interested me, and honestly I thought them to be the opposite of Christianity. The other reason was that someone who many moons ago repeatedly laughed about my Christian beliefs said to me, "If you want to understand me, then read Tolkien." He was being serious. I could not help but chuckle when years later I read that Tolkien was an outspoken believer.

As I began listening to Mere Christianity, I realized how off the mark my biases were.I had no idea that Lewis was an atheist who found Jesus.  In this book, he was able to put into words many things that I struggle to explain to others. A relationship with Jesus isn't something that you have to be able to explain to other people, but it sure it helpful to be able to communicate with others rather than saying over and over again, "I don't know how to explain it." There is plenty to explain, but for me it is such a shocking and joy-filled thing that words just don't convey what I want to express. How can I put into words a deep internal change and spirit that leads to joy and peace and have it make any sense to someone? When I was reading Lewis's words, I immediately understood that he was communicating in a way that I have been unable to do. He also spoke of some things I had yet to even think about. Does that mean I can now use his words to explain to a random person in a way that is understandable? I wish, but no. It doesn't work that way, and it isn't supposed to. "Let those who have ears hear." A relationship with Jesus has only to do with Jesus and the person in that relationship. Perhaps that sounds exclusive of others, but it really isn't.

I will go back and read sections of this book again because I want to spend extra time thinking about some of his words. Speaking of, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

"The great difficulty is to get modern audiences to realize that you are preaching Christianity solely and simply because you happen to think it true; they always suppose you are preaching it because you like it or think it good for society or something of that sort."

“It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong, but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table.”

“Now we cannot...discover our failure to keep God's law except by trying our very hardest (and then failing). Unless we really try, whatever we say there will always be at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time we shall succeed in being completely good. Thus, in one sense, the road back to God is a road of moral effort, of trying harder and harder. But in another sense it is not trying that is ever going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment at which you turn to God and say, "You must do this. I can't.”

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”

“I think all Christians would agree with me if I said that though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Everyone there is filled full with what we should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world. No one's eyes can see very far beyond that: lots of people's eyes can see further than mine.”

"But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

Merry Christmas :-)

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