Saturday, September 22, 2012

Forgiveness—Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

"Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war," begins C.S. Lewis, whose Mere Christianity arose from a series of BBC radio talks during World War II. "It is not that people think this is too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible.... Half of you already want to ask me, 'I wonder how you'd feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?' So do I.... I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find: 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.' There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms.... To learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo. One might start with forgiving one's husband or wife, or parents or children ... for something they have done or said in the last week."

"We might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbor as yourself means.... I have not exactly got a feeling of fondness or affection for myself, and I do not even always enjoy my own society. So apparently 'Love your neighbor' does not mean 'feel fond of him [or her]' or 'find him attractive'.... My self-love makes me think myself nice, but thinking myself nice is not why I love myself. So loving my enemies does not mean thinking them nice either. That is an enormous relief.... Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery.... But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again."

"Does loving your enemy mean not punishing him? No, for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishmenteven to death." The Sixth Commandment forbids murder, not killing. "It is, therefore ... perfectly right for a Christian judge to sentence a man to death or a Christian soldier to kill an enemy.... All killing is not murder any more than all sexual intercourse is adultery. When soldiers came to St. John the Baptist asking what to do, he never remotely suggested that they ought to leave the army: nor did Christ.... War is a dreadful thing, and I can respect an honest pacifist, though I think he is entirely mistaken. What I cannot understand is ...semi-pacifism ... which gives people the idea that though you have to fight, you ought to do it with a long face and as if you were ashamed of it. It is that feeling that robs lots of magnificent young Christians in the Services of something they have a right to, something that is the natural accompaniment of courage—a kind of gaiety and wholeheartedness."

"We may kill if necessary, but we must not hate and enjoy hating.... We must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves—to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may ... be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not.... God intends us to love all selves in the same way [we love ourselves and He loves us] ... just because we are the things called selves."

Highlights from chapter 7: Forgiveness, 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment