While I’ve never read this book in its entirety, I’ve read the Weight of Glory chapter in Weight of Glory and it is quite possibly one of my favorite chapters of any book I’ve ever read. And I read a lot. That is why I want to go a little more in-depth with it, because it is a reading that never gets old for me. It always moves me and makes me wonder at my own faith, my neighbor, my love for God, and love in general. And it never ceases to amaze me. C.S. Lewis was a brilliant man.
If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love.
You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.
The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.
If there lurks in more modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.
We are far too easily pleased.
We are half-hearted creatures. Our Lord finds our desires too weak.
What a mind-blowing, humbling thought. So many people look at Christianity as an enormous sacrifice, and it is genuinely hard for me at times to not see it that way as well.
With love, we have the opposite problem, believing that we are owed every pleasure, that if I don’t feel it, it’s not real.
But neither is true.
Christianity is stunning, it’s beautiful and brilliant, and utterly amazing – filled with true joy and genuine happiness. It is a perpetual holiday at the sea when we’ve been playing in the slums our entire life. Who could not want that? Who would deny themselves that? And yet, we are so concerned with our mud pies that we refuse to understand that it could be so, so, so much better.
The most remarkable part of it all is that God knows the deepest longings of our hearts, He understands what will make us happy in a way that we could never even contemplate; all we have to do is give him the chance. To answer the door to his knock.
And Love. Oh, Love. It’s something we seek, something we chase, something we live our entire lives hoping for when the real source is found in God and in ourselves. Until we learn that the self-denial is not an end in itself, until we see that pleasure is not an end in itself – until we acknowledge that the end, the purpose of love is securing the good of those we love – we will only be living a half-life.
The goal isn’t to be thinking about whether we are selfish or unselfish. The goal isn’t to think about whether we are giving the other person enough. The goal isn’t to think about whether we are being given enough.
The goal is to think about others, not ourselves at all – to live passionately for the Lord, to think about Him, His glory, and His people whom we were put here to love. Whole-heartedly, without reserve, and with the fullness of charity.
“Love, and do what you will.”