A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitantly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offenses. This makes sense only if He really is the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin (p. 51-52).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
I don’t think I was properly offended by Jesus’ words, “Your sins are forgiven (Luke 5:20),” until I read this quote. As with so many things in Scripture, I do not think we have fully grasped a truth until we are offended by it (or felt our life disrupted in some way).
If I hear “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)” as an abstract reflection on the general moral condition of people, it doesn’t change me. When I am offended by it, then it has the power to transform me and take me through the rest of the book of Romans.
I used to read Luke 5:17-26 as a philosophical discussion of the deity of Christ. Since I am for the deity of Christ and Jesus won the debate, I liked the passage. I was against (on the other team) those guys who were arguing with Jesus. I was on the bench calling out “get ‘em” to Jesus.
Then C.S. Lewis had to go and ruin the passage for me. Lewis showed me that Jesus was forgiving every person who has sinned against me without my permission (or even seeking my consent). Frankly, I would like to be consulted on the matter. After all, I have been personally harmed and violated by the subjects at hand.
Now I am having to wrestle with the deity of Christ in a way that I didn’t think I needed to. If Jesus is God and life centers on God, then in the “economy of forgiveness” I am (at best) second. I liked holding the power over those who sinned against me. I found satisfaction in knowing they had to come to me in order to have their account cleared.
Jesus’ deity took that from me. In my sense of injustice I overlooked that in making no man my slave, Jesus also freed me from being a moral slave to any man because of my sins. But I’d rather not talk about that (it’s too “negative”).
To clarify, this does not mean that interpersonal repentance is unnecessary. Scripture still calls us to go to those we have offended and seek their forgiveness. What it does mean is that I cannot hold anyone hostage by refusing to forgive their sin against me. Jesus’ deity means that his forgiveness trumps my bitterness.
This takes me to one big point: God’s view of life is the true view of life. I may still view the person I refused to forgive (this assumes their repentance) as a vile sinner with an unchanged heart (after all, I “really know them”), but Jesus view of them as forgiven is true. In that case, “my reality” is not reality at all.
This helps me greatly. There are many things that God says which I struggle to see (accept, believe, rest in), but God’s view of life is the true reality. Through my struggle to forgive, God graciously helps me to see the way out of many of my cognitive-emotional bondages. I accept His deity and live as if what He says is true (because it is truer than “my reality”).