A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“And secondly, we might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbor as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself (p. 116)?… [Lewis was using a war illustration] Even while we kill and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves – to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not (p. 120).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
In a politically correct world where we must say that every one is “nice” or “good” even “when he is not,” it makes it harder to love our neighbor as ourselves and, thereby, harder to forgive. I’ll try to follow Lewis’ logic from each point.
First, Lewis connects a forced attribution of niceness as an impediment to loving our neighbors as ourselves. When we cannot declare bad to be bad or foolish to be foolish, then we are prematurely forced to extend grace by the abolition of negative words.
When this happens, a basic form of loving others is taken away. We are no longer able to want “good” for them, because we have been forced to declare what they are doing “good.” Because of this we are forced to a higher level of relational involvement – from wanting their good to appreciating what they are doing.
This brings us to Lewis’s second connection. Now their offense against us not only has to be forgiven, it must be enjoyed. Forgiveness must mean more because love means more. If I cannot merely love them by wanting their good (because all things are good), then I must agree with their offense as being acceptable.
Think about one of the most common modern sayings given in resistance to forgiveness – “I’m not going to say that what they did was okay.” At first it may sound like a leap, but in light of Lewis’ assessment, it makes more sense.
Now let’s work Lewis’ logic backwards. If I am allowed to say that an offense or even an offender is bad (which Scripture holds to be universally true; Romans 3:23), then forgiveness would be made easier. I can now desire their good – being delivered from the moral condition that resulted in their offending me.
This is actually the same sense of regret I feel for myself every time I become convicted of my own sin. I desire my good – that I would be delivered from the moral condition that makes sin so deceptively tempting and illogically appealing. I now want for them what I would want for myself in the same situation.
When I can love them by wanting their good, I can see how forgiving them does not mean condoning or approving of their offense. Forgiveness, by definition, must declare something wrong before it can be enacted. Declaring everything good, neutral, or a matter of personal preference makes forgiveness an illogical exercise.
To summarize: wanting someone’s good is the foundation of love and allows us to see that loving them is not a contradiction to the moral infringement we feel when they offend us.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Forgiveness” post which address other facets of this subject.