I recently rediscovered C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, and while the entire book is fabulously thought provoking, one particular passage grabbed my attention earlier this week. My daughter Elizabeth and I were talking about sin, what it is and isn’t, and what it means to be a follower of Christ. Is it a sin to miss church a Sunday or two? Is it sinful not to pay tithing? How about committing adultery? Is that sinful? Is gossiping about other people wrong enough to be considered a sin? Is homosexuality a “sin against nature” that offends God? As we were chatting (I was doing most of the talking while she listened somewhat patiently), I recalled a passage from Mere Christianity. I loved it when I first read it, and I love it now. It’s fantastic.
“If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong. The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”
That’s pretty powerful stuff, Folks. The church pews are filled with self-righteous, back-biting, gossipy people who tend to judge others unfairly and who are so filled with pride that they’ve forgotten the source of all their blessings. At the same time, there may be someone who’s “strayed” from the path and yet who has a heart full of love.
Which had you rather be? Can you see yourself in both? I’m not enough of a Christian scholar to know for certain why Lewis felt this way, but I’m wondering if it’s because the sins of the Diabolical self hurt other people so much. What do you think?