C.S. Lewis on Living For Christ

Thanks to the C.S. Lewis Daily email feed from Bible Gateway for these Lewisian nuggets of wisdom. To receive them first hand, simply click on the above link, place a check in the box next to C.S. Lewis Daily, and follow instructions. And to any hyperconservative Evangelicals who happen to read this, Lewis wasn’t the demonic, high-church intellectual that some make him out to be. His style may have been different from yours, but his love for the Lord and his neighbors was topnotch.

TO Mrs. JESSUP, who seems to have written Lewis about the difficulties of being in a marriage in which one of the spouses is a Christian and one is not: On the slow process of being remade and how difficult we must be to live with after conversion as before; and on not concealing but not flaunting our conversion.

15 October 1951

Our regeneration is a slow process. As Charles Williams says there are three stages: (1.) The Old Self on the Old Way. (2.) The Old Self on the New Way. (3.) The New Self on the New Way.

When Lewis speaks of “The Old Self,” he means the habitual modes of communication that characterized ones behavior, such as assertiveness, arbitrarily critical outlook—both toward self and others—divisiveness, and the whole raft of attitude sins condemned in the New Testament.

“The Old Way” is the old lifestyle … ’nuff said.

“The New Self” is the effectively discipled self, committed to emulating Christ in every area of life to the glory of God the Father.

And “The New Way” is working purposefully and cooperatively within Christ’s Body the church, to fulfill the vision his Holy Spirit has placed in the leadership.

After conversion the Old Self can of course be just as arrogant, importunate, and imperialistic about the Faith as it previously was about any other interest. I had almost said ‘Any other Fad’—for just as the loveliest complexion turns green in a green light, so the Faith itself may have at first all the characteristics of a Fad and we may be as ill to live with as if we had taken up Nudism or Psychoanalysis or Pure Wool Clothing. You and I, clearly, both know all about that: one makes blunders.

Here, Lewis made a powerful, three-word point. Our blunders are exactly that, well-intended exceptions to the Christ-likeness we pursue. So praise God for his wonderful grace and mercy. Without it, even the best of us would be completely hopeless.

About obedience, the principle is clear. Obedience to man is limited by obedience to God and, when they really conflict, (obedience to man) must go. But of course that gives one very little guidance about particulars.

The difficult thing about principles is their oftentimes vague mandate for application to particular circumstances. Tough love is the perfect example; sometimes people who are wandering from the Way need to be (figuratively) slapped upside the head to get their attention, while at other times they need understanding and nurture. The next excerpt deals with this conundrum rather well.

The converted party must pray: I suppose it is not often necessary to pray in the presence of the other! Especially if the converted party is the woman, who usually has the house to herself all day. (Remember, Lewis penned this in the ’50s) Of course there must be no concealment, in the sense that if the question comes up one must say frankly that one does pray. But there is a difference between not concealing and flaunting. For the rest (did I quote this before?) (George) MacDonald says ‘the time for speaking seldom arrives, the time for being never departs.’ Let you and me pray for each other.

Talk about principles! I don’t often see the words of human authors as in need of memorization, but MacDonald’s quote is one of them. Truly, words to live by.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume III
Compiled in Yours, Jack