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Thoughts from C.S. Lewis’ The Weight of Glory

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For Christians, the idea of self-denial is not an end in and of itself. It is intended for something greater; something in alignment with our God-given desires. But what are those desires that self-denial would bring. While unselfishness connotes going without for the benefit of someone else, is self-denial the ultimate expression of love? What then is the reward of love?And how is it the same as the reward of following Christ? Is it only in the hereafter, or is it part of our present experience? And if so, how? Lewis' book, The Weight of Glory, causes us to ponder these questions. He says that we are too easily pleased (and temporarily satisfied) by the things of this world. Yet, we have to ask ourselves, is desire the problem? And if so, how? Lewis writes, “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 desires not too strong, but too weak.” But yet, “We are far too easily pleased [with other things].” He describes kinds of rewards: 1. Those that have “no natural connection with the things you do to earn [them] and are quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things.” Examples: money as a reward for love or battle. 2. Those rewards that “are the activity itself in consummation.” Examples: marriage as a reward for love; victory as a reward for battle. 3. Those rewards that begin as drudgery (without any experiential reward in the now) but because they are a “natural or proper reward” will become apparent, but not until they have been reached. Example: Schoolboy learning Greek grammar (drudgery) begins to enjoy Greek as he approaches the reward of reading Greek poetry. Lewis writes: “But it is just insofar as he approaches the reward that he becomes able to desire it for its own sake; indeed, the power of so desiring it is itself a preliminary reward.” From this it seems to me that the Christian learning faith and obedience, beginning to experience desire for the “ultimate reward,” finds trusting and obeying as desirable. Lewis further writes: “. . . poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.” Those desires for the eternal reward of heaven (“we were made for heaven”) are already resident within us. We, however, tend to attach these desires to earthly things. “If a trans-temporal, transfinite good is our real destiny, then any other good on which our desire fixes must be in some degree fallacious, must bear at best only a symbolical relation to what will truly satisfy.” Further he writes: “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” The application is that those of us who believe Christ for our salvation live for Him as the Living Bread of Heaven, enjoying those things in our experience now that but give us a taste of heaven with Him. Let us never enjoy temporal things as an end in themselves, or without reference to the spiritual beauty and delight of Christ. For all things were created for His good pleasure, and ultimately, for our good. We are called to desire those things God provides in abundance. Love for others will always come along this line.

Posted on January 26, 2014