Good Infection

We are in the season of death and resurrection, living in the reality of someone paying the wages of our sin and celebrating in the victory of his bodily resurrection from the dead. The natural seasons also celebrate this new birth, as spring opens up and the earth is made green again. It’s a “good infection”, a term Lewis introduces in Book IV of Mere Christianity.

Stained glass behind the altar of Holy Trinity Church at Headington Quarry, the church C. S. Lewis attended.

He explains that there are two kinds of life. One is self-centered and self-seeking. It doesn’t want to be accountable to anyone and never wants to be challenged to change. As a result, it stays well away from anything that makes it feel unworthy and small, especially anything spiritual. It knows full well, that the spiritual stuff will make it change out of its self-centered skin. It’s ready to, “fight tooth and nail to avoid that,” says Lewis.

Ah, but what if this mask of death could be replaced? Lewis asks us, “Did you ever think, when you were a child, what fun it would be if your toys could come to life?” It doesn’t sound theological but it’s stock full. “Imagine turning a tin soldier into a real little man,” Lewis says, explaining that the tim soldier would think it’s being killed and he doesn’t want this new manliness. Perhaps the stubbornness of the soldier would prevent us from carrying out the miraculous change. But it doesn’t stop God. Lewis says,

The Second Person in God, the Son, became human Himself: was born into the world as an actual man—a real man of a particular height, with hair of a particular colour, speaking a particular language… .The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a foetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.

Becoming a slug or crab? Think about it. Jesus was begotten–he was born into human form–to miraculously save all of us tin soldiers! But here’s the catch. He became real tin in order to take on the deadness of our sin and bring us into his fullness. Lewis also says that, different from the transformation of a single tin soldier to a single human being, Christianity is about the human race being transformed, and, for those who believe, we become united in Christ’s sacrifice and victory. “It is as if something which is always affecting the whole human mass begins, at one point, to affect the whole human mass in a new way,” Lewis explains. “From that point the effect spreads through all mankind. It makes a difference to people who lived before Christ as well as to people who lived after Him. It makes a difference to people who have never heard of Him. It is like dropping into a glass of wa ter one drop of something which gives a new taste or a new colour to the whole lot.”

It’s a good infection. Jesus is the anecdote for the sin we harbor and what destroys us. “Humanity is already ‘saved’ in principle,” Lewis says. “We individuals have to appropriate that salvation. But the really tough work—the bit we could not have done for ourselves—has been done for us.” We don’t have to work and perform to be counted worthy. That part is accomplished. Ours is to accept and be willing to be reborn in Christ, no longer tin but real humans, fully back in the image of God –

We have not got to try to climb up into spiritual life by our own efforts; it has already come down into the human race. If we will only lay ourselves open to the one Man in whom it was fully present, and who, in spite of being God, is also a real man, He will do it in us and for us… . One of our own race has this new life: if we get close to Him we shall catch it from Him.

As the seasons change and we see the rebirth of the trees, flowers and grass, let us be reminded afresh of the rebirth that Lewis talks about, that is presented to us in Scripture, of the God-man Jesus who came to make all things new.