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
Yesterday, we looked at the question of Christians being nicer than non-Christians from the reasonable point of view. Now let’s look at Lewis’s unreasonable side of the argument. Why is it unreasonable to think that a believer (a new creation) will always be nicer than a non-believer?
Lewis’s makes his first argument against Christians being nicer, all the time, than non-believers by looking at the absolutes. Except for Jesus, there is no one in the world that is 100% Christian. There is no one that is 100% non-Christian, in the nasty behavior sense. Those are his words, sort of. As for the Christians, none of us are fully sanctified. That follows that we are not 100% ‘Christians’ until sanctification is complete. (100% saved and forgiven, but still a work in progress.) We know when full sanctification happens according to the quote above, at death. As for the non-Christians not being 100%, that might take more explanation. Non-Christians take much of the Judeo-Christian ethics as being intuitively obvious. For example, it isn’t nice to kill someone. We could take a week’s worth of posts, quoting many scholars, to examine why they think these ethics to be intuitively obvious. In fact, Lewis wrote about it and many blogs discuss it. So, since these people are not total barbarians with no sense of right and wrong, they cannot be placed at the far extreme on the nice versus heathen scale.
To incorporate Lewis’ first point into the argument, the Christians and non-Christians in the middle of the scale, just by basic knowledge of data collection, might be found to intermingle on the nice scale.
Lewis’s second point takes the first argument a step further. He introduces two people. One is a Christian, Miss Bates by name. The other is a non-believer by the name of Dick Firkin. It is quite true that Miss Bates has a much sharper tongue than Dick Firkin. In fact, Miss Bates, upon becoming a Christian, had a long way to go to become as nice as the Mr. Nice himself, Dick Firkin. Dick Firkin learned early in life that if you have an outer countenance of ‘nice’, you could bend people to your way of thinking. Dick Firkin became successful. Dick Firkin is naturally charismatic. People flocked to him as moths to a light. But at his core, Dick Firkin was only nice for what nice gained him. There was no focus on an ideal goal of being like Jesus. Meanwhile Miss Bates, fully saved, struggles to get rid of the bad habits as she tries to glorify the God who loves her.
And Lewis’s third point is the ultimate conclusion of the Bates and Firkin comparison. In the end Firkin would be condemned for never accepting Jesus as his Savior, while the stumbling, bumbling Miss Bates would be made perfect only upon her death. Before the earthly end of Miss Bates, she became quite nice indeed, but she was not equal to Firkin. To the ‘outer world’ they might seem similar, but Miss Bates loved Jesus. She worshipped Him. She praised Him. She thanked Him for providing forgiveness of her sins and the strength, courage, and direction in becoming more like Jesus.
I have known many Dick Firkins. When they were in the presence of the Miss Bates of this world, they knew what got Miss Bates upset, out of sorts, and very non-Christian-like. They found the button and they mashed it repeatedly, mercilessly until they proved that Miss Bates was not that nice indeed. But they mashed the button in a way to remain unnoticed. Their outward countenance remained forever nice. When Miss Bates flew into a rage, maybe only with a sharp word or an icy stare, Dick Firkin would take a step back and in all innocence act shocked that Miss Bates would react that way, seemingly to all others – unprovoked.
Yes, I have failed. My successes with the Dick Firkins have been when I spent months (if time allowed) praying in preparation of my next encounter and in changing the subject to steer clear of the hot buttons, even when it leaves nothing to discuss. Some pastor or theologian said something like the following statement, but I am sure not exactly.
“To avoid the heat, our life must be prayer conditioned.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.