I remember annoying my sister once (I annoyed her on other occasions too) by posting on my wall (I mean my bedroom wall; I was thirteen and it was 1967, so no Facebook etc.) the less than modest declaration, ‘When you’re as great as I am, it’s hard to be humble!‘. Genuine humility, it seems, is never easy but C. S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, gives us a helpful clue to at least beginning. This is the first of three brief posts on the theme of humility.
‘Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.’
From Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
A comfortable life may deny
us the experience of comfort.
In this third brief post on the theme of comfort, John Piper comments ….
‘Pilate’s authority to crucify Jesus did not intimidate Jesus. Why not? Not because Pilate was lying. Not because he didn’t have authority to crucify Jesus. He did. Rather, this authority did not intimidate Jesus because it was derivative. Jesus said, “It was given to you from above.” Which means it is really authoritative. Not less. But more.
So how is this not intimidating? Pilate not only has authority to kill Jesus. But he has God-given authority to kill him. This does not intimidate Jesus because Pilate’s authority over Jesus is subordinate to God’s authority over Pilate. Jesus gets his comfort at this moment not because Pilate’s will is powerless, but because Pilate’s will is guided. Not because Jesus isn’t in the hands of Pilate’s fear, but because Pilate is in the hands of Jesus’ Father. Which means that our comfort comes not from the powerlessness of our enemies, but from our Father’s sovereign rule over their power.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:6-7
Pilate has authority. Herod has authority. Soldiers have authority. Satan has authority. But none is independent. All their authority is derivative. All of it is subordinate to God’s will. Fear not. You are precious to your sovereign Father. Far more precious than the unforgotten birds.’
For more about John Piper’s ministry and writing, see DesiringGod.org.
Karl Marx claimed that religion was ‘the opium of the people’, numbing the pain that comes with living in the world, but preventing us from ‘fashion(ing)… reality … so that (a man may) move around himself as his own true Sun.’ In other words, so that we may become our own god. Our search for relief leaves a scattering of similar failed idols along our way. This second brief post on comfort is from C. S. Lewis.
‘One reason why many people find Creative Evolution so attractive is that it gives one much of the emotional comfort of believing in God and none of the less pleasant consequences. When you are feeling fit and the sun is shining and you do not want to believe that the whole universe is a mere mechanical dance of atoms, it is nice to be able to think of this great mysterious Force rolling on through the centuries and carrying you on its crest. If, on the other hand, you want to do something rather shabby, the Life-Force, being only a blind force, with no morals and no mind, will never interfere with you like that troublesome God we learned about when we were children. The Life-Force is a sort of tame God. You can switch it on when you want, but it will not bother you. All the thrills of religion and none of the cost. Is the Life-Force the greatest achievement of wishful thinking the world has yet seen?’
From Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
Of course the notion of a comfort zone in which we live, free of risk, free of stress, is attractive but where, in a risky, stressful world, does one exist? Can there be any comfort where there is no loss? Are we like the man Jesus mentioned, filling new and bigger barns with grain and goods ‘ample for many years’ then sitting down to ‘relax, eat, drink and be merry’, only to find death just waiting to crash the party? This first of three brief posts on the theme of comfort comes from C.S. Lewis.
‘God is the only comfort. He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion. Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger, according to the way you react to it. And we have reacted the wrong way. . . . Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth; only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.
From C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity