A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the first World War, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it (p. 119).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
It must be noted that this quote is based upon Lewis’ personal speculations and his own retrospective assessment of what his response would be in a purely hypothetical circumstance. So whatever we do with this quote, we should not treat it as doctrine.
But the quote does challenge us to consider the question, “How much difference will Heaven make for the greatest atrocities and offenses we face now?” This is a question that runs a great risk of being misused.
Many would use a question like this to minimize the pain or significance of current suffering. There is no indication (nor would I suggest as a good idea) that Lewis used this type of question to belittle the dangers he faced in WWI. Neither would it have been of any benefit to manipulate himself into thinking, “the young German doesn’t really mean to take my life with the bullets he’s firing over my head.”
“Perspective” should never be used to craft an alternative reality. Perspective does not make danger less dangerous, evil less evil, or pain less painful.
So what good does perspective bring to suffering?
In a word – hope.
This perspective gained from the kind of reflection Lewis is engaging in reminds us that evil never gets the final or definitive word. God’s redemption is so complete that the darkest evil becomes like the awkward moment before the punch line in a really good joke.
In that moment of awkwardness, you legitimately do not know how to respond. It feels like the story is painfully incomplete or about to become offensive. Then with the punch line the size of the awkwardness only serves to accentuate the humor.
Again, it should be said, any use of “perspective” that seeks to minimize the painfully awkward moments in which we live on this side of God’s redemption, is a poor (possibly abusive or traumatic) use of perspective.
The point of perspective is to remind us that while evil may be “winning,” it cannot “win.” With this thought secured, then core aspects of personhood – hope, courage, meaning – are able to withstand the barrage of suffering.
The main lie of suffering – this is all we will ever know – is broken. It is as if an evil enchantment of mental and emotional slavery (we are dealing with C.S. Lewis, the author of Narnia) has been lifted from our soul. We remain a person who have been given personhood by the King’s authority which cannot be usurped by any invading tyrants (or German soldiers) or intrusions into our lives.
We are free children of the King, who must be reminded of who we are. When we remember, and even more when we enter His kingdom, the threats of this world will be like silly jokes. But again, that should give us hope, not cause us to minimize the threats of this world.