The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
- John 17:22-24
“He meant what He said. Those who put themselves in His hands will become perfect, as He is perfect – perfect in love, wisdom, joy, beauty, and immortality. The change will not be completed in this life, for death is an important part of the treatment. How far the change will have gone before death in any particular Christian is uncertain.
”I think this is the right moment to consider a question that is often asked: If Christianity is true why are not all Christians obviously nicer than all non-Christians? What lies behind that question is partly something very reasonable and partly something that is not reasonable at all.”
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We’ll tackle the very reasonable argument first. Lewis goes on to say:
“Jesus told us to judge by results. A tree is known by its fruit; or, as we say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. When we Christians behave badly, or fail to behave well, we are making Christianity unbelievable to the outside world. The war-time posters told us that Careless Talk costs Lives. It is equally true that Careless Lives cost Talk. Our careless lives start the outer world talking; and we give them grounds for talking in a way that throws doubt on the truth of Christianity itself.”
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
And yet, as C. S. Lewis said in his first paragraph, in the quote above, we are not fully sanctified until at the point of death. For some this may be a large modification; for others the ‘outer world’, if they could observe, might not notice much change at all.
My wife’s often repeated line has been “Christians sin, but they should sin less.”
This could be taken in two ways. Christians should sin less than non-Christians. But also, as we are awakened to each new day, we should pattern our lives more and more after Jesus, sinning less than the day, week, or year before. Sometimes, we find the path toward full sanctification to resemble a roller coaster track more than a steady climb – just hopefully not ending where we started with the roller coaster.
Some people may bristle at Lewis’s assertion that the outer world finds our open sin, the sin that they see, to be fodder to use against not only our claim to be a Christian, but in Christianity itself. Lewis mentions in the same chapter as these quotes that each Christian should make a noticeable improvement in their attitudes, behaviors, or some aspect of their lives or their Christian conversion ‘was largely imaginary.’
I wonder if that is along the same lines as ‘a little bit pregnant?’
While some may bristle, I have been on the front lines between Christianity and non-believers. They were quick to point out my faults. It was so obvious that they looked and noticed, I could not deny it, and I am convicted by Lewis’ remarks, not offended.
Then again, the non-believer does not understand. When we are forgiven of our sins, we are not made perfect at that point. It is just that God never ‘sees’ our sin, only our countenance that is washed as white as snow. And our understanding of that comes from the Holy Spirit indwelling us when we are born again. The non-believer does not have that understanding. Lewis used a good phrase to describe them, the ‘outer world,’ outside the understanding that can only come after being born again and come from the Holy Spirit.
In tomorrow’s part 2, I will examine the ‘unreasonable’ aspects of the argument of Christians being nicer than non-Christians.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.