A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“You cannot expect God to look at Dick’s placid temper and friendly disposition exactly as we do. They result from natural causes which God Himself creates. Being merely temperamental, they will disappear if Dick’s digestion alters. The niceness, in fact, is God’s gift to Dick, not Dick’s gift to God (p. 211).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
It would be easy for an anxious person to think that God is more pleased with a calm person, because their life is bearing more of the fruit of peace. Similarly, it would be easy for an introvert to think that God is more pleased with an extrovert, because they fulfill more of the “one another” commands of the New Testament.
The same thought pattern could be used in evaluating God’s pleasure in our intelligence, attractiveness, various personality traits, and other factors that are significantly influenced by how God knit us together genetically in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139).
While this way of thinking is natural, Lewis is challenging us to consider whether it is accurate. He challenges us to realize that this is the equivalent of saying that God takes more pleasure in tall people for being tall than he does short people (assuming a culture where height is valued).
When we consider this question rationally (instead of through the bias of our own insecurity or pride) we realize it is silly. Being tall is not a virtue; it’s a blessing. God does not praise us for the blessing He gives us; we praise Him.
How is this helpful? It helps us have a more accurate picture of how we relate to God. We begin to realize every good thing in our life is a gift and that we are prone to label blessings as virtues.
When we realize that every good part of our life is a gift from God we are free to steward those gifts as evidences of God’s favor rather than living under the pressure to perform up to someone else’s gifting in order to earn God’s favor.
So what does that mean for Dick and his friend who (apparently) is more easily agitated? Dick should realize he cannot “coast” because of his naturally even keel demeanor. God will assess Dick’s faithfulness based upon what he does with what God gave him – “to whom much was given, of him much will be required (Luke 12:48).”
For Dick’s less patient friend, it means he is free from competing with Dick. God has no expectation that he “catch up” to his friend. He should strive to grow in patience at each opportunity when life presents an agitant.
But the main question this friend should ask is, “What strengths has God given me and how can I use them?” As this friend pursues his areas of God-given strength, two things are likely to happen.
First, he will likely become more patient as he follows God’s design instead of Dick’s standard.
Second, he will feel less resentment or insecurity around Dick (or other patient people) which will also aid his ability to handle moments when patience is required.
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