A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Put right out of your head the idea that these are only fancy ways of saying that Christians are to read what Christ said and try to carry it out – as a man may read what Plato or Marx said and try to carry it out. They mean something much more than that. They mean that a real Person, Christ, here and now, in that very room where you are saying your prayers, is doing things to you (p. 191).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
There was once a young man who came to Jesus and addressed Him as “Good Teacher” (Mark 10: 17). Jesus seemed put off by the title, “Why do you call me good (Mark 10:18)?” This compliment was beneath Jesus, just as calling a President who has served as Senator by the title “Senator” would be beneath him/her. It would be both true and dishonoring.
In this quote, Lewis is referring to the biblical instruction to “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27) or to “have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16). He wants the reader to know that this means something much more profound than to merely follow Jesus’ teaching (moral code and relational advice).
If we allow being a Christian to be reduced to following Jesus’ teaching, then we become a “try harder” or “get ‘em next time” religion. Further, having a vital connection to the real, resurrected Jesus is no longer necessary. Jesus doesn’t have to do anything to you (more than inspire you) for you to be a Christian.
My personal history with the Christian faith has been one that emphasized intellect over experience. Whether is was daily Bible reading, Scripture memorization, or distinguishing theological concepts, the looked-for marks of maturity have been more intellectual than relational. So while I agree with Lewis, the thought of maturity as “Jesus doing something to me” seems foreign.
It is helpful for me to start by asking, “Who has the greatest impact on my life in the last year? What habits have I added and who did I learn them from? What do I admire more and who influenced that value change? What insecurity matters less and who was most involved in me letting it go? What conversation can I still remember the details of and what did it change?”
These are the kinds of questions that reveal a relationship that is “doing something to me.” What about my walk with Christ would generate answers to these kinds of questions? These influences require a kind of interaction that goes beyond the Bible being my favorite book (which it should be).
This kind of interaction is what allows the Bible to be what God intended it be – the vehicle through which we come to know Him. While the Bible contains the best (only true) theology, philosophy, ethics, and history, those elements are not its main purpose.
The purpose of the Bible is to introduce us to God, teach us how He removed the relational barrier of sin, and transform our lives by allowing us know God as Father (1 John 3:1-3). While I am a teacher, I would never want my children to call me “Professor Hambrick.” I am “Papa” to my boys. While I want to teach them, it would be terrible if the biggest influence I had on them was helping them articulate a life philosophy.
A similar, but greater, dynamic should exist between us and God. We should be able to describe how our daily interaction with, trust for, and security from God shapes our identity, values, and life mission. God is more than our teacher (but not less). He is our Father.