C. S. Lewis would be among the first to run clear away from a Christian message that promises God’s comfort without the reality of sacrifice. Through history, from the beginning of the Christian Church through today’s plethora of options, some preachers have chosen to emphasize the more acceptable, tolerable, comfortable truths of the Gospel. Most contort to what is called a prosperity gospel, where there’s a quid pro quo with God. We behave and he blesses.
“I quite agree,” Lewis says, “that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort.”
Where does it begin? Lewis says it begins in dismay. In the text just before this excerpt, Lewis explains that the Gospel has nothing to say to people, “who do not know they have done anything to repent of and who do not feel that they need any forgiveness.” That means that dismay comes well before any resulting comfort. And, to whom we are repenting to should give us additional pause in attaching too much comfort to the message. “God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror,” Lewis says, “the thing we most need and the thing we want to hide from.”
The demand of the Gospel is to “be holy as I am holy” (I Peter 1:16). The proposition is daunting. If we rely on our own goodness, we react wrongly. Lewis suggests three things in the chapter titled “We Have Cause To Be Uneasy,” where our reading for Jan. 24 comes from.
First, we must turn the clock back and admit that we have not progressed in our hunt for the Truth, but rather, “We are on the wrong road.”
Second, we should examine the evidence in front of us: the universe of great artistry and tremendous danger as well as the Moral Law which, “He has put into our minds.” But these things alone, Lewis explains, does not provide evidence of a God who forgives. The Moral Law is, “hard as nails,” he says. “It tells you to do the straight thing and it does not seem to care how painful, or dangerous, or difficult it is to do.”
Third, “Christianity tells people to repent and promises them forgiveness,” Lewis says. And this is power of the Gospel! “It is when you have realised that there is a real Moral Law, and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power – it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.”
It is not an easy way to comfort–to go through such Truth– but it is an eternal one.