A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“God can show Himself as He really is only to real men. And that means not simply to men who are individually good, but to men who are united together in a body, loving one another, helping one another, showing Him to one another. For that is what God meant humanity to be like; like players in one band, or organs in one body. Consequently, the one really adequate instrument for learning about God is the whole Christian community, waiting for Him together (p. 165).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The idea of knowing someone best in community (rather than one-on-one) was an idea that Lewis did not apply only to God. It was actually a concept that he learned by accident and was surprised to discover.
Lewis was a part of a group of three friends for a long time when one of them passed away. Initially he tried to console himself by telling himself he would get to know his remaining friend better, because he would no longer have to share him.
But what Lewis found was that there was a side of his living friend that was only brought out by his deceased friend. Even the increase of time and attention allowed by heightened exclusivity of their friendship could not generate the same type of knowing.
I believe this is comparable to what Lewis is saying about our knowledge of God in the absence of participating in authentic, vulnerable Christian community. There are aspects of God’s grace, power, wisdom, and holiness that I will never draw out in my limited life span and experience.
But when I immerse myself in the lives of others whose life’s story reflect distinct aspects of God’s grace, power, wisdom, and holiness I come to know more of God. God does not change, but I know more of Him than I could have comprehended in isolation.
I believe this a key element of humanity’s collective mission to reflect the image of God in two ways. First, we can only reflect God’s image in community. God exists in community (Trinity), so when we live isolated lives we do not fulfill the first aspect of our creation mandate.
Second, we know more of the God whose image we reflect as we live in community. The question is, “For whose benefit do we reflect God’s image?” We reflect God’s image for His glory and our benefit. As we know / reflect more of His image through community, we come to know more of who we were created to be.
This extends Lewis’ insight after the loss of his friend. We not only know more of others in community; we come to know more of ourselves. We come to know our need for grace and our capacity to love when we live with other people. We come to know our unique gifts / passions and how they can be used to serve God when we live in community.
This both combats and compliments the relative notion that each person has their own truth. The reality is that each Christian has their own experience of the Truth (John 14:6) and is called by God to share that with their community to bring to life the timeless truths of Scripture. Each experience, measured by Scripture, balances the errors and adds depth to the others.