C. S. Lewis on Surrendering

Gargoyles from Brataslava, Slovakia
Screwtape & Wormwood

The quote from Seneca has had me thinking about the idea of surrendering our will to God. C. S. Lewis is one of the greatest Christian apologists of the modern era, and weighed in on the subject in  Mere Christianity: 

Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time, and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. . . Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which your think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked–the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.’

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.  For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way–centered on money or pleasure or ambition–and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And this is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs.

As our will becomes God’s will, we become like God.  That’s the whole point of Christianity. Yet the whole notion of surrendering our autonomy and will to anyone or anything is abhorrent by today’s standards. Any religion that suggests we do so is colored in the most extreme shades of radicalism by contemporary thinkers. Yet this is precisely what Jesus Christ taught we must do:

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it (Luke 9:23-24).
It’s pretty tolerable to lose your life for Christ’s sake when the time suits us.  It’s an entirely different matter when it’s ‘time for me’. C. S. Lewis points out so well that incomplete surrender will not cut it. For most of us, that’s pretty problematic. We rationalize this dissonance within by softening the doctrine in the interest of ‘balance’ and ‘moderation in all things’. But we do so at our own peril. Said the devil Screwtape to his understudy Wormwood: A moderated religion is as good for us as no religion at all–and more amusing (C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters).




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