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

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down (p. 142).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The “silly idea” to which Lewis alludes is till “current.” It seems to be alive in two ways. First, those with life-dominating sin struggles still view those who “have it together” as being blissfully naïve. Second, those who are facing intense temptation by walking against sins’ tide fear they are doing something wrong because life is so hard.

This lie cuts off both people groups from a vital source of their hope.

The first group views anyone who is living a seemingly healthy life as being “out of touch” with their reality. “You can’t understand,” is the refrain that rings in their mind when they consider talking to someone who is skilled in the areas where they are weak.

What’s left? Only those who share the same weakness. There is value in a sympathetic community, but an exclusively sympathetic community remains defined by what it is trying to eliminate. Even when progress is made, shame or prejudice (against “those who haven’t struggled like I have”) remain.

Even if you find freedom from your life-dominating struggle this way, it is a socially-truncated freedom. The biggest loss is that the church does get to be the church. The lie becomes self-fulfilling. The church doesn’t understand and doesn’t get to be involved to prove it’s willing to be involved. Satan uses this combination of shame and pride to cut us off from the hope of authentic Christian community.

The second group is “winning” against their sin, but views their intense struggle with temptation as a sign of failure. They are like the marathon runner who confuses fatigue with weakness instead of a sign of progress. The result is more silence and more shame.

It is interesting to see how Satan uses the same lie to produce the same destructive result in people in very different places in their battle with sin.

What is the take away? We must realize vulnerability in Christian community is essential for life. Why else would Satan devise so many of his strategies to push us towards self-protective lives of surface-level isolation?

When will we realize that the things that our enemy attacks most are the things we must cling to most tightly? How do we convince ourselves that we can live without the things that Satan most tries to separate us from?

Could it be that we are trying to fight the current of particular sins without fighting the current of privatized, just-like-me Christianity? Let us not become so focused on avoiding the snake (image of a relatively small predator) of Genesis 3 that we run into the roaring lion (the larger predator of isolation that leaves us susceptible to all kinds of temptation) of I Peter 5:8.