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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Love—Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The old English word for distinctively Christian love is charity. "Charity," writes C.S. Lewis, "now means simply ... giving to the poor. Originally it had a much wider meaning. (You can see how it got the modern sense. If a man has 'charity,' giving to the poor is one of the most obvious things he does, and so people came to talk as if that were the whole of charity. In the same way, 'rhyme' is the most obvious thing about poetry, and so people came to mean by 'poetry' simply rhyme and nothing else.) Charity means 'Love in the Christian sense.'... It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will we naturally have about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people. I pointed out in the chapter on Forgiveness that our love for ourselves does not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish our own good. In the same way Christian Love ... is quite different from liking or affection. We 'like' or are 'fond of' some people, and not of others.... This natural 'liking' is neither a sin nor a virtue, any more than your likes and dislikes in food.... It is just a fact. But, of course, what we do about it is either sinful or virtuous."

"Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find out one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.... Whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less.... The Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on.... Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of."

"Ask yourself, 'If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do? When you have found the answer, go and do it.... Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will.... Though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not.... It is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of [our] sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him."

Lewis later went on to write one of the greatest books ever written about love. Click here for an illustrated summary of The Four Loves.

Highlights from chapter 9: Charity, book 3: Christian Behavior in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.  Click here for a clear view of how this chapter relates to the whole book.


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