Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Blessed are the poor (and nasty)

We must, therefore, not be surprised if we find among the Christians some people who are still nasty. There is even, when you come to think it over, a reason why nasty people might be expected to turn to Christ in greater numbers than nice ones. That was what people objected to about Christ during His life on earth: He seemed to attract ‘such awful people’. That is what people still object to and always will.  Do you not see why? Christ said ‘Blessed are the poor’ and ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom,’ and no doubt He primarily meant the economically rich and economically poor. But do not His words also apply to another kind of riches and poverty? One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realise your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing cheques, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God. Now quite plainly, natural gifts carry with them a similar danger. If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. ‘Why drag God into it?’ you may ask. A certain level of good conduct comes fairly easily to you. You are not one of those wretched creatures who are always being tripped up by sex, or dipsomania, or nervousness, or bad temper. Everyone says you are a nice chap and (between ourselves) you agree with them. You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing: and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognise their need for Christsilhouette-series-3-by-cathyk-no-r at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are ‘rich’ in this sense to enter the Kingdom.
     It is very different for the nasty people—the little, low, timid, warped, thin-blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensual, unbalanced people. if they make any attempt at goodness at all, they learn, in double quick time, that they need help. It is Christ or nothing for them. It is taking up the cross and following—or else despair. They are the lost sheep; He came specially to find them. They are (in one very real and terrible sense) the ‘poor’: He blessed them. They are the ‘awful set’ He goes about with—and of course the Pharisees say still, as they said from the first, ‘If there were anything in Christianity those people would not be Christians.’

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 213-214.

1 comment:

  1. I understand and agree with this.  And yet . . . in my experience, church -- by which I mean, that building that some people go to on Sundays -- is the most concentrated collection of really awful people I have ever come across.  People who are nasty, deceptive, petty, self-righteous, judgmental, destructive, manipulative, and seeking to use the church as a vehicle for power over others or for elevation of their own egos.  Whenever I go to a church, if I go there long enough to actually get to know the body, I leave exhausted and depressed.  You could say that the church will have human flaws because people are
    people; but actually, I think any random collection of people I scraped
    up from the sidewalk would usually be better, kinder, more
    considerate, more loving, more self aware, and more sacrificing than the people I have found
    in church. 

    Now, it could be that God wants us to go to church so as to minister to the people there because they are in special need; and it is my own selfishness to want, in a church, a body that will edify me, strengthen me, and help me leave with the proper orientation to face the world for another week.  Still, I just can't bring myself to do it.  I hate going to church; it is draining; I can't seem to find the energy to do it after a hard week of work.  I