Lewis & Love

As part of my teaching responsibilities for my church, I have an adult Sunday class that I offer ten months out of the year. The goal of this class is to dig deeply into Scripture. In September, I began a series on 1 Corinthians 13, the famous Love Chapter. It has taken three months to navigate it in as detailed a fashion as I can, and the final session is this Sunday.

I began the series with C. S. Lewis’s insights in his book The Four Loves. I believe it was a great way to introduce the various types of love people talk about, with the conclusion being the agape love demonstrated through Christ. So Lewis’s thoughts led beautifully into the chapter.

Now that I am ending the series, I chose to bring Lewis back into the picture, drawing this time on his “Charity” chapter in Mere Christianity. It works as a summary for what we have examined for the past three months.

“Love, in the Christian sense,” Lewis begins, “does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.” He continues by pointing out that we have a natural fondness for some people and not for others. There’s nothing sinful about that, he maintains, because we have the same feelings with respect to certain foods as well; the feelings themselves are neither sinful nor virtuous. Yet there is a responsibility on our part nevertheless because “what we do about it is either sinful or virtuous.”

We could try to “manufacture affectionate feelings,” of course, but he doesn’t think there’s anything particularly charitable about that. Lewis believes it comes down to this:

That advice is built upon his starting point: love is a matter of the will, not primarily a matter of how one feels about someone else. In an age such as ours, one in which emotion dominates, this may seem to be rather cut and dried, drained of proper emotion. Lewis anticipates this reaction:

In other words, doing what God requires leads to being what God wants us to be. Doing His will, even if it seems an arduous task, will give Him an opportunity to work within us: our hearts will soften and we will begin to see this arduous task the way God sees it. The emotional side may then appear, but not by some artificial means—not by trying to force the right feelings. We may then be surprised by an increased ability to like people that we never imagined we could appreciate.

That final word from Lewis reminds us that God’s love for us is not based on fleeting feelings. Despite our sins, regardless of our lack of fervor at times, the Lord continues to reach out to us to deliver us from those sins that so easily beset us. He will do so no matter the cost to us or to Him. How do we know this is true? Look at the cost already through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Look at what He was willing to do for us as the ultimate sacrifice. His commitment to make us as much as possible into little Christs is a remarkable indication of His neverending love.

Because of the loving devotion of the Lord we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness!

Lamentations 3:22-23