In just a few words, C.S. Lewis helps us make sense of the world, the church, and the true disciple.
Then he points the way to freedom:
There are three kinds of people in the world. The first class is of those who live simply for
their own sake and pleasure, regarding Man and Nature as so much raw material to be cut
up into whatever shape may serve them. In the second class are those who acknowledge
some other claim upon them—the will of God, the categorical imperative, or the good
of society—and honestly try to pursue their own interests no further than this claim will
allow. They try to surrender to the higher claim as much as it demands, like men paying
a tax, but hope, like other taxpayers, that what is left over will be enough for them to live
on. Their life is divided, like a soldier’s or a schoolboy’s life, into time “on parade” and
“off parade,” “in school” and “out of school.” But the third class is of those who can say
like Apostle Paul that for them “to live is Christ.” These people have got rid of the tiresome
business of adjusting the rival claims of Self and God by the simple expedient of rejecting
the claims of Self altogether. The old egoistic will has been turned round, reconditioned,
and made into a new thing. The will of Christ no longer limits theirs; it is theirs. All their
time, in belonging to Him, belongs also to them, for they are His.
And because there are three classes, any merely twofold division of the world into good
and bad is disastrous. It overlooks the fact that the members of the second class (to which
most of us belong) are always and necessarily unhappy. The tax which moral conscience
levies on our desires does not in fact leave us enough to live on. As long as we are in this
class we must either feel guilt because we have not paid the tax or penury because we
have. The Christian doctrine that there is no “salvation” by works done according to the
moral law is a fact of daily experience. Back or on we must go. But there is no going on
simply by our own efforts. If the new Self, the new Will, does not come at His own good
pleasure to be born in us, we cannot produce Him synthetically.
The price of Christ is something, in a way, much easier than moral effort—it is to want
Him. It is true that the wanting itself would be beyond our power but for one fact. The
world is so built that, to help us desert our own satisfactions, they desert us. War and
trouble and finally old age take from us one by one all those things that the natural Self
hoped for at its setting out. Begging is our only wisdom, and want in the end makes it
easier for us to be beggars. Even on those terms the Mercy will receive us.
Have mercy on us and change our hearts, O Lord. Help us to desire you above all else in life.
And grant us to delight in your will and walk in your ways for the glory of your name. Amen.
- C.S. Lewis/Walter Hooper, ed., Present Concerns (London: Fount Paperbacks, 1986), p 21-22.