A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Himself sometimes describes the Christian way as very hard, sometimes as very easy. He says, ‘Take up your Cross’ – in other words, it is like going to be beaten to death in a concentration camp. Next minute he says, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden light.’ He means both. And one can just see why both are true (p. 197).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Jesus isn’t Bipolar, but Christianity is not one-dimensional. Christianity is both dying to self and finding life. Embracing the gospel will give you the desires of your heart, but only after it has shaped the desires of your heart so that fulfilling them would be a blessing instead of a veiled curse.

There are two questions that arise from this tension in Jesus’ teaching; one easy, the other hard.

  1. Which of these aspects should we emphasize in our personal study and public teaching?
  2. When do we emphasize each of these aspects in our personal study and public teaching?

The answer to the first question is simply, “Yes.” When there is tension in how Scripture addresses a subject, we are not free to pick the side we like best. Is God sovereign or do people have free will? Scripture teaches both and we have a hard time with the tension. Both are true and we much live with the tension.

Similarly in this question, Scripture sometimes presents the Christian life as hard and other times as easy. We must live with the tension. But this brings us to the second question. There will not be a simple answer to this question, so I will provide a list of possible options.

Admittedly, I don’t agree with all the options I give. My purpose in brainstorming was not to answer the question, but merely to “advance the question.” I suggest you critique the strengths and weakness of each of the possibilities below. As you do, I believe you will become much more effective at counseling yourself and others with both halves of the gospel.

For clarity, the term “imperative” refers to the commands of Scripture we are to obey (generally considered to be hard to obey because of our sin nature). The term “indicative” refers to those aspects ofs the gospel which are true about us because of what Christ did on our behalf (generally considered to be easy because we only have to receive or accept them as true).

  1. Imperatives are for sin, and indicatives are for suffering.
  2. Imperatives are for closed-handed sin, and indicatives are for open-handed sin.
  3. Imperatives are for put-offs and put-ons, and indicatives are for thinking change.
  4. Imperatives are for the idle or unruly, and indicatives are for the discouraged and weak.
  5. Imperatives are for licentious people, and indicatives are for legalists.
  6. Imperatives are for the proud, and indicatives are for the humble.
  7. Imperatives are for the immature, and indicatives are for the mature.
  8. Imperatives are for active sins, and indicatives are for dispositional sins.
  9. Imperatives are for the indicative-minded, and indicatives are for the imperative-minded.
  10. Imperatives are for urgent situations, and indicatives are for when there is the luxury of time.
  11. Imperatives are for public ministry, and indicatives are for private ministry.
  12. Imperatives are for instructional communication, and indicatives are for emotional communication.
  13. Imperatives are for cognitive change, and indicatives for spiritual change.
  14. Imperatives are for when we serve, and indicatives for when we are being served.