Pause for thought
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One of my favorite Christian authors is C.S. Lewis. You may be familiar with some of his work including The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce, among others. If you are not familiar with him, I highly recommend any of his writing since it is always insightful, thoughtful, and intelligent in promoting Christian belief and experience.

A great paradox that Lewis points out comes from two sayings of Jesus:

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23 NLT


“For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:30 NLT

Jesus is saying that the hardest thing for us to do will be easy! How can both things be true at the same time?

Lewis points out that ordinary human beings have a conscience which evaluates whether we are doing “good” or not. This is our “natural” self.

We start each day hoping or resolving to do good and at the end of the day we evaluate how we have succeeded — and inevitably end up disappointed and unfulfilled. The more you obey your conscience, the more your conscience will demand of you. And your natural self, which is thus being starved and hampered and worried at every turn, will just get angrier and angrier.

As Lewis says:

In the end, you will either give up trying to be good, or else become one of those people who, as they say, “live for others” but always in a discontented, grumbling way — always wondering why the others do not notice it more and always making a martyr of yourself. And once you have become that you will be a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish.

The Christian way is different: harder, and easier.

Christ says, “Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked — the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.” In other words, Jesus wants to do a complete transplant!

Jesus never prescribed vague, idealistic measures for us. When He said, “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” [Matthew 5:48 NLT], He meant it!

He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It may be, and is, hard; but the sort of compromise with our natural self that we are all hankering after is much harder — in fact, it is impossible.

Lewis says: "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would certainly be much harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."

Paul points out in his letter to the church at Ephesus that there’s no way we can work ourselves into being better people who will meet God’s standards. It is possible, but only as a gift from God by allowing Him to reprocess us:

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:8-10 NLT

So the paradox resolves in the following way: if we are willing to do the “hard” thing — giving up control over our lives and letting the spirit of Jesus take over — then doing good and having a calm conscience becomes “easy”!

Instead of worrying and fretting about “did I do the most good today?”, all I really have to do is be filled with praise and wonder and worship for what the Holy Spirit of Jesus accomplished through my surrender to his will. Don’t get me wrong, we will still be “doing” stuff, it’s just that the motivation and responsibility for the outcomes rests solely with Jesus and not with choices we had to make. Our conscience will be totally satisfied!

As already quoted, Jesus said his projects were easy and tailored to our abilities and capabilities and easy to accomplish. He does all the heavy lifting for us!

What’s not to like? I choose to go for easy the hard way!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at