The note in A Year with C.S. Lewis for May 11 indicates that Lewis met J.R.R. Tolkien this day in 1926. It’s apropos then to reflect on a selection from Mere Christianity about the Christ’s salvific work to make us new creatures, not simply nicer people.
As is widely known, Tolkien helped Lewis find his faith in Jesus almost six years after their first introduction, on a sleepless night of heightened conversation with their mutual friend, Hugo Dyson. After that night, Lewis wrote, “Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened…” (Read more about that night)
The excerpt from Mere Christianity isn’t easy. Lewis echos Paul, with words about Jesus making us a new creation. Why? Wouldn’t it be simpler, especially since humanity is already fashioned in God’s image, to make us better, nicer, friendlier folk… and be done with it? We have to refer back to Paul’s statement about a new creation in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” In that same chapter, Paul says that we groan and long for something more than this life, and that longing is only filled by Jesus. This idea is woven throughout Paul’s letters and is supported by an often noted verse from Romans: “For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (3:23).
Lewis is stating this same truth. The trap is within us, and the way out is not by accessorizing with faith in Jesus to “better ourselves” (thus producing nicer, more pleasant people), but by abandoning ourselves altogether and running headlong into the person of Jesus and his transforming work.
The picture that Lewis provides of a winged horse is a good one. We are being fashioned into creatures who want for different bread and wine – the body and blood of Jesus. And, as we are shaped into such a people, the “things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace,” as the 1922 British hymn reads. But this path is not easy. We can’t hide under a bushel or sneak into Nicodemus-like darkness as it’s happening. Instead, as Noah encountered when God told him to build a gargantuan boat in the middle of dry land, we must trust in him to complete the work he began in us as he prepares for the coming day, new creations in a new heaven and earth.