A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“I find a good many people have been bothered by what I said in the previous chapter about Our Lord’s words, ‘Be ye perfect.’ Some people seem to think this means ‘Unless you are perfect, I will not help you;’ and as we cannot be perfect, then, if He meant that, our position is hopeless. But I do not think He did mean that. I think He meant “The only help I will give is help to become perfect. You may want something less: but I will give you nothing less (p. 201).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Consider the alcoholic who wants to learn to be a good father without becoming sober? What about the person caught in sexual sin who wants to learn how to be pure but resists being honest? More generically, what about all of us who want to remove the sins that interfere with our lives while protecting our “pet sins”?
This is where Jesus puts his finger and Lewis is shining the spotlight of God’s Word. In these moments we grow defensive and rebut that God is asking too much. Yet our defensiveness misses that God is judging our objectives (what we’re aiming at) more than our performance (how close we come to the target how often).
Jesus is our righteousness. He hit the bull’s eye for us. That part of our relationship is settled. What is being determined now is whether our life is still aimed at the target, or whether we are trying to negotiate with God to accept other targets? God will not help us pursue targets outside His will.
The alcoholic father feels failed by God for not empowering him to be a good father. Why wouldn’t God answer that prayer? The person in sexual sin wants to be sin-free without being relationally-real. Why does God have to be so demanding? We all want to spot-remove sin. Why won’t God accept what I’m willing to surrender for now and worry with the rest of my life later?
When we set the questions up this way, the answer begins to be self-evident. It’s like asking, “Why won’t God give hot snow, dry water, or dark light?” There is a contradiction in our request whenever we want God’s help but reject God’s character.
It would be easy to use this to imagine God as the “impossible to please coach.” But that would also be inaccurate; another attempt to blame shift from us to Him.
We are the kid who wants to hold our hands reversed on the baseball bat, dribble the basketball with two hands, or practice the high bar before we’re ready. God is the coach who says, “No, I will not allow you to practice that way. I would be reinforcing error or creating danger instead of growing and protecting you. I would rather face your anger or disappointment than that.”
If we’re holding the bat correctly, He’s happy to pitch us life lessons as we learn to hit. If we’re willing to working on dribbling with one hand, he will patiently and graciously chase the life situations we dribble off our foot. If we’ll tumble on the mat, then God will teach every life skill we need to soar in His service.
There is no limit to God’s grace, patience, forgiveness, or willingness to teach His children. However, there is also no choice in the target/objective at which God will allow His involvement to be aimed. We can have all of God if we will pursue holiness – His character and our good.