Tag Archives: C.S. Lewis

Abiding Agape

A friend’s comment about my earlier post on accountability reminded me of a statement made by C.S. Lewis in his famous and fabulous speeches titled, The Four Loves. In discussing Agape, God’s love, referred to in this statement also as charity, Lewis says:

There is that in the heart of every man which resists and resents agape from his fellow creatures or even from his creator.  We naturally want to be desired, to be found delightful, to satisfy worthily some hunger in others. To receive a love that is purely a gift, that bears witness solely to the lovingness of the giver, and not at all to our loveliness, is a severe mortification. We desperately need to receive such love, from God and even from our fellow creatures, but we don’t naturally want to. 

That reality, of course, is due to the fall – that pride we inherited that wants to “be like God“.  This is also why many have a hard time receiving the free gift of God in Christ preferring, instead, a plethora of philosophies, ideas and religions that let them work up to God, building their own tower of Babel, with the same tragic results.

However, where accountability is concerned, we are not under any obligation to receive false charity.  Lewis continues:

“I don’t want any of your darned Christian charity” is a very familiar sentence.  Of course, it often springs from an ignorance of what Christian charity is – more often from a well grounded suspicion that Christian charity is not what we’re really being offered – because, of course, much of what is called charity contains so much vanity, self-applause, and veiled contempt that it cannot help but be resented.

Our Lord told us that he was sending us “out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves“.  He also told us not to give “that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” 

Trust your heart and seek counsel from those who love you as Christ does, not from those who care about moral platitudes and serving as modern day Pharisees. Psalm 103:13-14 says “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”  So, don’t give yourself to those who can’t remember that you, and they themselves, are made of dust.  Love those people, but seek counsel from brothers and sisters who love you and God and can encourage you with gentleness and compassion.

Lewis summarized this section:

It is hard to bear agape from our fellows, and yet, each of us needs it.  There is that in each of us that simply can’t be loved with natural love.

The question for us is whether we will recognize “angels unaware” and “today, if we hear his voice, avoid hardening our hearts.” Practice agape accountability with your brothers and sisters and let them practice it with you.  As St. Paul told the Ephesians: “And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you.”

The Wastefulness and Faithfulness of God

I came across a quote today by one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis:

In the midst of a world of light and love, of song and feast and dance, [Lucifer] could find nothing to think of more interesting than his own prestige.

Wow!  I hope we are not the same but I suspect we often are.  We are so caught up in ourselves that we miss everything going on around us – the infinite amount of gifts God bestows upon us.  While we are rarely aware of it, every single unconscious breath is a gift.  While we usually don’t notice, our brain is continually deciphering between 50,000 distinct cataloged smells.  While we barely think about it, the human hand performs thousands of intricate movements without us directly telling it to do so and with no conscious thought.

And surrounding these fabulous luxuries and all the others inherent in our bodies are all the gifts of creation at our disposal – an endless adventure of the senses and the spirit which we mostly ignore while we’re camped out in the AC in front of the TV watching ET or some other mind-numbing, life-sucking fictional/barbiturate IV.  Not saying that this is all bad but the excessiveness of it and the distraction of it away from that which really matters and the many other life-giving pursuits is fabulously ungrateful and mindless in response to what we’ve been given.  Clearly, we live in a culture where we live mostly lives of privilege, and think of most of our privileges as rights.

But I’m not really writing about us or Lucifer.  What I’m enthralled about is that despite Lucifer and his deception, despite our fallen state, and despite the world and its foolish misappropriation of creations gifts — God has provided it with an extravagance that is overwhelming when we get past our selves long enough to consider it.  What an amazing, loving Father!!!

On the surface, it is hard to say that God is wasteful.  It seems wrong.  But there is a certain sense where this seems obvious too.  That he would give up His son Jesus for the chance of the hearts of those who called themselves his enemies is an economy hard for us to comprehend.

I once shared a story about a man who chose between saving the life of his son who knew Christ or that of a friend of the son who did not.  It was an emotional story about how a Godly man might choose to go after the lost even at great personal cost.  The person I shared it with rejected the story commenting about how he could not get over the foolishness of such an economy. 

Perhaps this is why there are references in the Bible to the wisdom of God seems foolish to men 1 Cor 1:18 – though in reality, the foolishness of God is wiser than our wisdom 1 Cor 1:25 and the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God 1 Cor 3:19.

But even if God considers it necessary and worthwhile to send His son to die for us to redeem us and to overcome death (which can seem so foolishly wasteful to us), was it necessary to give us a billion stars at night, and massive oceans repeatedly pounding waves on the shore, hummingbirds, thousands of different types of flowers and plants and animals, the ability to imagine and create, endless different variations in the appearance of sunrise, sunset and the moon?  Do we really need to be able to distinguish 50,000 different smells? 

He has lavished us with so much more abundance than we can ever use of even be aware of.  We could easily fill several life times just trying to learn all that we could be thankful to Him for and still be less than 1% aware.  All of mankind’s story on earth and all of his learning, yet we still is seeing him in a dim and dark mirror.  It is hard to not see his abundance as wasteful from this perspective.

Yet with all this before us – we still miss God.  Another quote of Lewis from The Weight of Glory spells out the reality:

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire, not too strong, but too weak
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Perhaps God does need all these methods — all this wastefulness — just to get through to those he loves.  It is like the way a young man is "wasteful" in wooing the woman he loves, pouring out all sorts of praise and gifts upon her.  Perhaps, God’s "wastefulness" only seems that way to us because we don’t like His girlfriend so much – the way a parent or friends of the young man will council him, "she’s not worth it".  Of course, if the young man loves the girl, none of these brutish admonishments mean anything.   So this too should be an encouraging gift to us – God clearly loves us because we ourselves can argue "we are not worth it" and yet, Christ is fully committed to his bride.

In reading A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, and looking at God’s attributes and considering specifically the attribute of "faithfulness", we can see that all God’s attributes are true at all time – this is what His attribute of faithfulness means.  So God is faithful to us at all times, even when we are not faithful to him.  And this is not because of who we are, but because of who He is. And He is faithful!  But he is not just faithful to us – that might be easy since we are so happy with mud pies.  He is faithful to Himself.  Since that level of faithfulness is infinitely above what we need, His faithfulness to us is more than secure – it is part of who He is, for his sake, for his glory Is 48:11

God’s wastefulness is only wastefulness in the economy of men who are too foolish to see that the wastefulness is all part of God’s glory and he is showing it to us “24/7/365/a life time” because that’s who He is. Because of who He is, he longs to know us and bless us, simply because He loves us – even if we do not love him.   If we’re appalled by that wastefulness, there is but one solution, accept Him!  Then, in view of all these mercies, gifts, and lavish, abundant wastefulness of the lover-king toward his beloved, give him all of yourself daily and forever since you know that without doing so, your life would be truly wasted.

Lately, I’ve been reading Pray All Ways by Edward M. Hayes who shares dozens of ways to have a rich fellowship with our Father through every aspect of our lives – a way to recognize and give ourselves to him in all the day-to-day gifts He gives us.  I highly recommend it as well as The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer.    Also, a beautiful representation of the love of God toward us – in the context to the difficulties and tragedies of life can be found in The Shack by Paul Young – here is a cool blog and video with the author:

·         http://catalystroadtrip.com/2008/03/27/the-wastefulness-of-grace-paul-young-ernie-johnson/

That book ends with a great quote with I will end this post with it:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

        – Elizabeth Barrett Browning