A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“I admit that this means loving people who have nothing lovable about them. But then, has oneself anything lovable about it? You love it simply because it is yourself. God intends us to love all selves in the same way and for the same reason: but He has given us the sum ready worked out in our own case to show us how it works. We have then to go on and apply the rule to all the other selves (p. 120).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
There is beautiful discomfort in this quote. It is simultaneously offensive and relieving. I want to rebuttal, “What do you mean that there is nothing lovable in me? What do you mean God made it that way so I would be able to love the unlovable in others?”
But at the same time I want give a relieved sigh and say, “You mean I don’t have to ‘keep it together’? There really isn’t this perpetual pressure to be ‘good enough’ for God?”
I want the beauty of the gospel without the discomfort. I want the relief without the offense. But we simply cannot have it both ways. We want to figure out a way to overcome our insecurity without having to extend the same unmerited grace to others.
The most common approach is to do away with the biblical category of our sinful nature. Somehow we want to say that “everyone is really good” but also “nobody’s perfect” (awkward contradiction not beautiful discomfort). We try to build our self-esteem by saying that our nature is good, but then get defensive when our sinfulness breaks through our idealistic veneer and reveals our real nature.
Lewis acknowledges our sinfulness, but does not succumb to a sense of self-condemnation. His acknowledgement that there is nothing good in us to love does not cause him to sound pessimistic, negative, or hopeless. He still speaks of love and God’s design to teach us how to love with a sense of optimistic hopefulness.
In this regard, I believe we can learn as much from Lewis’ style and tone as his content. He makes a very unpopular point is the most palatable way. Lewis forces me to see my total depravity and lack of deserving love in a way that keeps the focus on God’s love and design.
I walk away thinking, “God allows me to respond to me the way I do – seeking my preservation and best interest in spite of my failure because of a love for self that is stronger than my dislike for self – so that I can learn how to love others like He loves all of us.”
I am not called to relinquish that care for self. But I am called to see that it is a faint picture of His love for me. It is a clue left in my soul meant to cause me to question, “Why would I respond to myself this way when it’s so hard to respond to anyone else this way?”
Either we are more selfish than we realize – giving ourselves advantage we won’t give anyone else. In which case, any sense of affection for self is continued self-delusion. Or, we are following a design left in us by our Creator, after the Fall, to give us a first-person experience of what His love for us is like. In this case, we follow this self-affection away from ourselves back to the source from which it came.
Let us follow Lewis’ example and realize that God’s truth always unravels very personal parts of our life struggles. When we walk to God’s truth through these questions and struggles, then even when the answers are offensive they will bring awkward comfort that leaves us trusting God more.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Self-Esteem” post which address other facets of this subject.