A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“The idea that the whole human race is, in a sense, one thing – one huge organism, like a tree – must not be confused with the idea that individual differences do not matter or that real people, Tom and Nobby and Kate, are somehow less important than collective things like classes, races, and so forth… Six pennies are quite separate and very alike: my nose and my lungs are very different but they are only alive at all because they are parts of my body and share its common life. Christianity thinks of human individuals not as mere members of a group or items in a list, but as organs in a body – different from one another and each contributing what no other could. When you find yourself wanting to turn your children, or pupils, or even your neighbors, into people exactly like yourself, remember that God probably never meant them to be that. You and they are different organs, intended to do different things. On the other hand, when you are tempted not to bother about someone else’s trouble because they are ‘no business of yours’, remember that though he is different from you he is part of the same organism as you (p. 185-186).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Can’t say I’m sorry we didn’t consider “Nobby” as a name for either of our boys (assuming it’s a boy name). But this conception of the human race is something that warrants consideration.
Do we view people like collectable quarters – different dates and regions stamped on them, but having no vital interconnection? Or, do we view people as organs within a body – the health of each one essential to the health of all the others? Either-or is probably too strong of language; it is more likely a spectrum of positions that exists. But where are you on that spectrum? And, where is Scripture?
I find myself guilty of both aspects of Lewis’ warning – wanting to duplicate my “strengths” in others and wanting to distance myself from other’s “weaknesses.” I believe I can defend that as legitimate, in some cases – saying as Paul did “follow my example as I follow the example of Christ (I Cor 11:1)” and avoiding codependently taking responsibility for other’s sin or folly.
But my tendency, which is generally not codependent, often neglects the unity of the human race. A big part of that may be my competitive nature. I’ve accepted that in a fallen world that there will always be losers, but that by God’s grace every time we lose, it can become a powerful motivator, life lesson, and source of healthy humility.
Yet, even that mindset is not as incarnational as Jesus. I can become much more callous to the realities of a fallen broken world than Jesus. Worse, I can begin to use the mindset of competition to generate “success” in my Christian walk.
While I may not “defeat” someone else, my non-organism view of the human race allows me to measure progress by how far “ahead” I am of others instead of (a) how far we’ve come together, (b) how much I’ve spurred others on, (c) how my temporal setback may result in a greater advance for many others, (d) whether my gain is the best measure of “success” in a given moment, etc…
What I need to realize is that the questions I think I answer well (being an example and avoiding codependency) often deafen me to the questions I’m not asking. I would encourage you to consider three things in light of this reflection: (1) Where are you on this relational spectrum? (2) What questions are you asking/answering well? (3) What questions are you overlooking in the way you relate to people?