Lewis: Loving God, Loving Others–A Matter of Priority

The Great Divorce CoverWhat is the proper relationship between one’s love for God and love for others?

C. S. Lewis warns us that it’s very easy to want to see someone else as the focus of our love, but that we will always be disappointed. As he puts it in The Great Divorce,

Human beings can’t make one another really happy for long. . . . You cannot love a fellow-creature fully till you love God. . . .

No natural feelings are high or low, holy or unholy, in themselves. They are all holy when God’s hand is on the rein. They all go bad when they set up on their own and make themselves into false gods.

Certainly God wants us to have deep, lasting, and loving relationships with others, but it’s a matter of priority. How can we really know how to love someone else unless we first grasp God’s love for us and have the proper love response to Him?

Lewis Letters Volume 3Writing to Mrs. Johnson (that’s all we know about this American correspondent) in 1952, Lewis expounds further on this same theme:

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.

In so far as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all.

When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.

Have you ever heard someone say they want to go to heaven so they can be reunited with a person or persons they loved here on earth? If that’s their main preoccupation with going to heaven, might I suggest they may be disappointed with their eternal destination?

Unless we love God above all else and are more excited about seeing Him face to face than anyone else we have lost, our hearts are not truly His. In Him we live and move and have our being, not only now, but in eternity.

Lewis: The Real “Love Wins”

The word “love” is being tossed around these days in a loose manner. We’re now informed we have to apply it to same-sex marriage, even while the Scripture is perfectly clear that depravity is not to be equated with love.

Love is not a fleeting emotion, nor even a lifelong affection. Yes, you might differentiate between types of love, as C. S. Lewis does in his book The Four Loves, but when we are talking about God’s love—the kind of love we are supposed to mirror—there is only one way to explain it.

Mere ChristianityAs Lewis notes in Mere Christianity,

Love, in the Christian sense, 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.

God’s love also is a willful thing toward us. It is not sappy; it does not simply accept us as we are and not expect change. True love seeks the best for the one loved. Lewis continues,

Love StoryThough our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.

The cost to Him was the ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. The cost to us is a heart of repentance and eternal gratitude for His willingness to do whatever it took to heal the breach and unite us to Him.

The “love wins” hashtag making the rounds is more properly “lust wins.” True love already has won, and He is offering us—the most unworthy of recipients—an eternity of love that we don’t deserve.

Lewis: The Vulnerability of Love

C. S. Lewis 8In C. S. Lewis’s excellent book The Four Loves, he issues this warning to those who try to shield themselves from love because they are afraid of being hurt. It won’t go well for them, for there are unintended consequences:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.

But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only safe place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

Jesus is the perfect example. His love was spurned, and still is, by the mass of humanity, but it was the driving force behind His sacrifice for us. The Scripture talks about the broken heart of God over sin. Yet He looked past that and loved us regardless. We are to do no less.

Lewis: Casting Out Fear

C. S. Lewis 1C. S. Lewis is just so quotable. Take this one, for instance, from one of his essays, “The World’s Last Night.”

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear. But so do several other things—ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity. It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear.

The perfect love he is writing about is the love of God shown through Christ. Anything else is an artificial, temporary solution that is no solution at all. Don’t settle for anything less than the real thing.

Judge Not?

Obama at National Prayer BreakfastPresident Obama uses the occasion of Easter, at a White House prayer breakfast, to insinuate that he’s very concerned about Christians who use “less than loving expressions.” Mr. President, I’m concerned about that, too. I always have been. But it all depends on what one’s definition of “loving” may be.

For Barack Obama, not endorsing same-sex marriage is unloving. For Barack Obama, not allowing abortion on demand is unloving. For Barack Obama, giving medical attention to a child born alive during an abortion is unloving. For Barack Obama, not letting Iran into the circle of the “civilized” nations by denying them access to nuclear capability is unloving. For Barack Obama, seeking to guarantee the survival of Israel apparently is unloving. I could go on.

He’s done this kind of thing before, most recently at another prayer breakfast where he downplayed Muslim atrocities and tried to paint a picture of moral equivalence by pointing to the Crusades.

When Muslims killed journalists in Paris and then turned to killing people in a Jewish grocery store, he refused to say Muslims were responsible and that Jews were targeted. Last week, in Kenya, when nearly 150 Christian college students were massacred by an Islamist terror group, the official White House response was to ignore both the religion of the attackers and those who were massacred.

Mr. President, my problem is that I know your background. You claim to be a Christian, but whatever Christianity you make a claim to is nothing more than a radicalized Marxist theology that makes Jesus into nothing more than a model to follow for “social justice.” I read the interview you did for a Chicago newspaper prior to your presidency in which you made it clear that 1) all religions lead to God; 2) you’re not sure there is an afterlife; 3) being a good father is what you depend on for a right relationship with God; 4) it is wrong to try to convince others to become Christians.

Judging OthersSo I am judging, based on your own statements, your radical history, and your actions, inactions, and outright string of lies you have uttered as president, that you, sir, are no Christian.

Yes, I can hear the outraged voices: who are you to judge? Doesn’t the Bible say “judge not, lest you be judged?” Anyone who says that discloses a superficial knowledge of that passage of Scripture.

Read it carefully and you will see that, from the context, Jesus is telling us not to be hypocrites. He says that before you judge, be sure you are not doing the same things for which you judge others. Take the log out of your own eye first, then take the splinter out of another’s eye.

Throughout the Bible, judgment occurs, and we are told often to be a discerning people. We are to look at the fruit of others’ lives and determine whether or not they are genuine. Otherwise, we will often be fooled and follow those who will lead us astray. Yes, we examine our own hearts first, but then we are to examine the actions and the words of others as well.

Some people have the idea that being a Christian means you just let things happen without standing up for truth publicly. They say that is true humility. I disagree. Humility is knowing the One who is really in charge and submitting our lives to Him. It means to boldly proclaim His truths so that others will be led away from destruction. To be silent is to connive with falsehood. We are to be watchmen on the walls, sounding the alarm when an enemy approaches.

I will continue to sound the alarm whenever the enemies of God’s truth try to advance. I will not be silenced. And Mr. President, to speak out concerning the falsehoods being promoted by your worldview and your policies is not being unloving; rather, it is being discerning, with the goal of helping people see His truth.

Meanwhile, Mr. President, I would urge you—in the love of God and out of concern for your soul and in context—judge not, lest you be judged.

Righteous Judgment

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Smoke on the MountainLast Sunday, I introduced you to the book Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments by Joy Davidman, who later became Joy Davidman Lewis, wife of the renowned Christian apologist.

I commented that one of the things I most appreciated about this book was her unique wording, the way she stated things to capture one’s attention. I have another few morsels from that book today that I would like to share.

In commenting on the fear that dominates our society (remember, this was written in 1953–how much more fear might we have today?), the author takes aim at the so-called leaders in society:

But the articulate, the leaders of opinion, the policy makers, all those who set the tone of our society, seem for the most part to be frightened men. And how do frightened men deal with life?

They don’t; they run away from it. The simplest among us flee openly, rushing from woman to woman, from drink to drink, from one empty amusement to another, wondering why they get so little contentment out of the eighty-miles-an-hour joy ride from unloved Here to unrewarding There.

We ignore Jesus’ admonition, Davidman insists, when He said not to worry about the future:

The words of Jesus are timeless. What worked for other frightened men will work for us. But our society refuses to listen; this injunction about tomorrow is precisely the one we will not accept.

JoyThere is a Biblical answer to fear, she reminds us. We find it in the Scripture that tells us perfect love casts out fear, and that perfect love can be found in Him:

We do not need a world in which there is nothing to be afraid of–in which obeying the law would be easy. Nor can we have such a world, for all our strivings; no matter how pleasant and safe we make the journey, the end of it is death. What we do need is to remember that we have been redeemed from death and the fear of death, and at rather a high price too.

The Ten Commandments may tell us what not to do, but the flip side is the guidance on what exactly we ought to do:

“Thou shalt not” is the beginning of wisdom. But the end of wisdom, the new law, is “Thou shalt.” To be Christian is to be old? Not a bit of it. To be Christian is to be reborn, and free, and unafraid, and immortally young.

Life in Christ is uplifting, not dreary. It is full of promise, not dread. It is the beginning of real living.

Lewis: From the Portraits to the Original

The Four LovesHuman love. What is it, exactly? Is it a lesser love than love for God? Does it get in our way of loving Him? Or is it a manifestation of His love? Do we set aside any human loves we have experienced when we enter His presence at the end of this earthly existence? This passage from C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves is one to be read slowly, in order to capture the fullness of what he is saying. So don’t rush through it; meditate on it and enjoy the richness of these thoughts:

We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him, only by being a manifestation of His beauty, lovingkindness, wisdom, or goodness, has any earthly Beloved excited our love.

It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger.

When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained, and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true love in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His.

In Heaven there will be no anguish and no duty of turning away from our earthly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the portraits to the Original, from the rivulets to the Fountain, from the creatures He made lovable to Love Himself.

But secondly, because we shall find them all in Him. By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we now do.

That beautiful passage is a commentary unto itself, requiring nothing more.