C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) is perhaps best known in popular culture for writing The Chronicles of Narnia, which have sold over 100 copies and been made into at least three major films. What are among his greatest accomplishments, however, are not the Narnia books that most people associate with his name. Rather, they are the books he wrote about Christianity and his faith in Christ.
Lewis abandoned his Christian faith early in life following his mother’s death in 1908. I don’t know if his mother’s death contributed to his rejection of Christianity or if the timing was coincidental. He became an atheist in 1911 (in Lewis’ case, he specifically lost faith in the God of Christianity). Lewis fought with the British Army during WWI during which his close friend was killed in battle and Lewis was wounded. After Lewis’ father died in 1929, Lewis rejected atheism in favor of theism (a belief in the existence of “a god or gods”). In 1931, Lewis converted to Christianity.
An acknowledged scholar and celebrated intellectual of his time, Lewis wrote many excellent books about Christianity. During WWII, Lewis was asked to give broadcasted talks on Christianity in the British Isles to a population under siege from Nazi Germany. He gave these talks while the enemy was at the door. These talks were later collected and published in an amazing book entitled, “Mere Christianity,” which I am currently reading. I am not alone in believing these talks were guided by Christ and the Holy Spirit.
While the British Isles were under siege from Nazi Germany during World War II, C.S. Lewis’ war-time radio broadcasts rejected theological boundaries that divided Christianity’s many denominations. He ignored theological barriers so he could discuss God and Christ on terms that resonated with all — a lesson we can learn from today.
Lewis sought to appeal to — and comfort — a war-battered nation in the face of great odds against them. He reached out across great divides in theology, to focus on the core teachings of Christ. He wanted Christ’s message to reach people, regardless of their denomination. He began, “…at the center of each there is something, or SomeOne, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks with the same voice.”
The enemy at the door was driven away in WWII, but not destroyed. No matter where we live, Christianity will always be under attack by the adversaries of God. Evil (disobedience to God) is something that never goes away. It is always the enemy at our door, waiting for an opportunity to challenge our faith in God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Only the names, rhetoric, symbolism, and methods of attack have changed.
Personally, I chafe at the bombardment of divisive behavior and imagery we tolerate as a people. Within the Christian community worldwide and in my own country, I’ve grown weary of “the divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution” and all stereotypes or labels that divide us as people in general — and as Christians in particular. And I believe it is time again for Christians to acknowledge that the enemy is at our door, and that the enemy was never meant to be each other.
Perhaps it is time to take a page out of Lewis’ “playbook” and re-focus on that “something, or Someone” who speaks with the same voice.
That “something, or Someone” Who is Christ.
Sure, arguing among ourselves is nothing new and pleas for Christian unity date back thousands of years: “But, dear brothers, I beg you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won’t be splits in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.” 1 Corinthians 1:10
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe it is humanely impossible not to unite as one in Christ, but through God’s grace we can accomplish what Christ asks of us: “Jesus looked at them intently and said, …But with God, everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26
If we focus our attention on Christ, loving God above all else and loving one another as we would want others to love us, we will be all right, stronger in Christ – obedient to God.
“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’ All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others.” Matthew 22:37-40
Any other behavior is the enemy at our door.
Image: Artwork from the film, “The Chronicles of Narnia,” by C.S. Lewis. May be subject to copyright.