In the course of one’s life there are experiences that change forever how one lives out the rest of life. Sometimes it is a critical event of overwhelming pain or pleasure. For me one of those moments came in an encounter with a small paragraph from an essay by C. S. Lewis. I had just been converted from atheism to Christ, when someone introduced me to the writings of Lewis. I discovered that I had found a mentor for my journey.
What was the paragraph that pierced my imagination and helped shape my values? It was these words found in his essay, The Weight of Glory. He writes:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and more uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or other of these destinations….
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949. p. 15.)
If his words are at all true, then investing ourselves in the lives of other people, is the only investment worth making.
Think it through
- Western Christianity’s understanding of humanity was that we are all “Arrogant Worms.” Eastern Christianity’s view was that we are “Flawed Divinities.” How would these two perspectives affect the way we treat people?
- Western Christianity usually saw people as “born sinful” needing forgiveness. Eastern Christianity often saw us as “born sickly” and in need of healing. How would these two viewpoints influence our interactions with others?
Published in Light and Life, September-October, 2007