A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“We never have followed the advice of the great teachers. Why are we likely to begin now? Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any of the others? Because He is the best moral teacher? But that makes it even less likely that we shall follow Him. If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it likely we are going to take the most advanced ones? If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more will make no difference. (p. 156).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
As a counselor, one whose livelihood and profession is based upon giving good advice, I am not offended by this quote. Day in and day out I see its truth.
Sometimes people come wanting the counselor to give “deep” insight and advice to a problem rooted in the “elementary lessons” of functionality. They haven’t applied the basics of “love your neighbor as yourself” but they are asking for the “keys to marital communication.”
Other people come exhausted from all the great books, even the Bible, they’ve read hoping to find an “answer” to their struggle. But they have yet to find the principle that unlocks life for them. Now they just want to cynically hear a counselor tell them everything they’ve read so they can say, “Yeah, I tried that too and it didn’t work.”
When counseling does “work” it usually isn’t because of some moment of brilliance. When the light bulb comes on it’s rarely as bright as people expect. Most often the profound part of counseling is sorting through life’s mess more than finding a workable solution.
There is a reason for this that Lewis is driving at – people are more broken and bent than they are confused and misguided. Yes, Jesus was the Light of the world but He had to give us eyes to see before His illumination would do any good. And, Jesus was the Word made flesh but He had to give us ears to hear before we would receive His proclamation.
Giving good advice assumes that the human dilemma is an information or skill deficiency. We can testify that even when we know the right thing to do and could do it, we resist. We see North and still run South. We see light and run back to darkness.
There is something inside us that rebels against whatever “good advice” we already have. The better the advice, the more our souls withdraw.
This is exactly why Christianity is not an advice-giving religion. Christianity believes that we must be made whole and clean before we can be made sane and nice. Jesus did not come to give us advice, but to give us Himself in our place.
Jesus did not come to teach us what we must do, but why He must do what He did – take our sin and brokenness upon Himself at the cross. If we understood why He must do what He did we would have the beginning of wisdom. We would begin to die to self rather than seek self-help.
This is where wisdom begins, because we allow Jesus to remove the wisdom-repellant (sin) from our soul by washing it away in His blood. At that moment we are able to receive the profound wisdom of Scripture. But it is not the mere wisdom itself that changes our lives; it is Jesus who gave us ears to hear by changing our hearts.