A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it; the Christian rule is, ‘Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.’ Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it is now, has gone wrong (p. 95).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The either/or statement which concludes this quote is very provocative and, potentially, an effective point to begin a conversation about Christianity with a non-believer. Obviously, this would not be a standard introduction for conversation with every non-believer.
But many people have been hurt by the human sexual instinct in its current condition: rape, betrayal, or even the backlash of their own choices based upon sexual urges. In the case of rape or betrayal, people are left asking, “Why would someone do this to me?” In the case of the fallout in pursuing “sincere love” expressed sexually, people are left asking, “Why didn’t this work for me?”
Both questions echo the either/or contrast established by C.S. Lewis. If the current sexual instinct of the human race is right, normal, moral, or healthy, then there should be no rape, betrayal, or emotional trauma from the expression of sincere love. But there is. Not only do these things exist, but they affect the vast majority of the human population.
Honestly, how many people do you know who do not have deep regret about their own sexual activity pursued with good intent, or have deep pain due to unfaithfulness or some form of sexual abuse?
Those who have been touched by the devastation of the sexual instinct gone awry begin asking deep questions about the human condition. They want explanations for suffering and sin. They want to know if redemption, restoration, or hope truly exist. They want to know why the majority of what they have been taught has been proven tragically false.
The answer, at root, is that the human sexual instinct, like the rest of our being, is deeply tainted by sin. Our experience confirms this foundational tenant to the Christian faith, which so many want to condemn as judgmental or prudish.
Ask someone who has experienced the consequences of human sexuality if they would gladly accept the standard of the most unpopular Christian virtue. I believe they would gladly tell you “Yes!” if they believed it were possible. That takes us into a discussion of the necessity of Christ to keep the law on our behalf, which will have to wait.
The point is simply this: Christian virtue may be disliked or impossible apart from Christ of Christianity, but it has not been proven false. On the contrary, it is proven true in our lives constantly. When it comes to conversations with unbelievers, we can often draw upon their own experience to confirm the truths of the Bible rather than trying to convince them certain actions are wrong.
If they will not listen to the testimony of their own experience interpreted and illuminated by the truth of Scripture, then our evangelistic task might be (not always) better served continuing to build a bridge of friendship and/or waiting until their experience so confirms our faith that their heart cannot help but be tender to listen.