Part 1: Not Trying To Do, But Trying To Become

One of the many things I love about C.S. Lewis is that he often shows us a completely different way of looking at something. For example, I think it is common for people to see Christianity as “work”: as something you have to do in order to get to heaven or to be in God’s favor, or as a daily denial of things we’d really like but aren’t allowed to do.

Lewis didn’t see it that way, and I think we can learn from some of the things he says about this in Mere Christianity:


We might think that God wanted simply obedience to a set of rules: whereas He really wants people of a particular sort.

The point is not that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least the beginnings of those qualities inside them, then no possible external conditions could make a “Heaven” for them – that is, could make them happy with the deep, strong, unshakable kind of happiness God intends for us.

People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, “If you keep a lot of rules I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.” I do not think that is the best way of looking at it. I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is, it is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.

What we should have liked would be for God to count our good points and ignore our bad ones. Again, in a sense, you may say that no temptation is ever overcome until we stop trying to overcome it – throw up the sponge. But then you could not “stop trying” in the right way and for the right reason until you had tried your very hardest. And, in yet another sense, handing everything over to Christ does not, of course, mean that you stop trying. To trust Him means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not trying to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of heaven is already inside you. (emphasis mine – Keith)

The more I think about it, the more I believe that this is the true path for the Christian – not trying to do, but trying to become. Of course you become by doing, but doing isn’t the goal.

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