A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible (p. 132).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
This is a great picture of spiritual warfare. When I have read books or articles on spiritual warfare they seem to fall into one of two camps: (a) sensational portrayals that rely on imagination more than Scripture or (b) theological accurate descriptions that sound like an academic lecture on WWII more than one of its battles. This quote is both vivid and accurate.
Spiritual warfare does primary boil down to obedience. Most of the commands that give instruction to Christians interacting with dark forces sound like “stand firm” (Eph 6:13) or “take every thought captive” (2 Cor 10:5). Most of our battles with Satan boils down to don’t listen to his lies and don’t follow his example.
But Lewis’ imagery does not leave obedience as simple obedience. Rather every act of obedience is strategic obedience and every act of disobedience is a strategic fall. Ground is being won and ground is being lost. Two armies are marching across the terrain of my soul, each has a markedly different agenda, one will win, and my moral choices will determine who has the “home field advantage.”
Lewis shows me the importance of every day obedience while calling my soul to attention. The “normal” is no longer “mundane.” Lewis does not pressure me to do more than I can do or to try to redo what Jesus has already done (defeat Satan). Instead he shows me the importance of every “little” thing I do.
At the same time, as I read Lewis’ description I am not left in a fearful guessing game – where is Satan going to try to attack next? I simply “guard my post” at the next area of obedience. As a single soldier I am not asked to grasp the whole war. I am called to perform my role and trust that my general (God) is more clever and powerful than the enemy’s general.
With this mentality entrenched, I am reminded that the most dangerous question I can ask is a version of, “What’s the big deal if I…? It won’t hurt if I don’t…? Whose going to know if…?” These minimizing questions become the small points of encroachment for my enemy. They are not themselves defeat. But they are the points of advance from which my enemy would ultimately launch his attacks of victory.
Another truth this imagery reminds us of is that life never stands still—we may progress or regress, but stagnation is a myth. There is always an agenda for our life that is “winning.” Our life is always “advancing” one kingdom (God’s) or another (our own). We are always building a momentum. At any given moment we may not yet have fallen or flown, but we are gaining the speed necessary to soar or crash.
So the instruction is simple. Guard your post. But the motivation should be vivid. Each act of obedience is winning strategic ground for your Savior or the adversary.