“He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk. At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit-balance in the Enemy’s ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these “smug”, commonplace neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can.” Screwtape Letter II
Humility is a tricky thing. We have seen in earlier studies that humility is based upon a selfless attitude and God’s love. Screwtape points out another issue with humility, we often think we are being humble when we are not. Simply put, humility is a state of being and not a state of doing. Yes, humility will result in acts of humility but all too often, if we are not humble our acts of humility they are actually acts of pride.
“He wants to kill their animal self-love as soon as possible; but it is His long-term policy, I fear, to restore to them a new kind of self-love – a charity and gratitude for all selves, including their own; when they have really learned to love their neighbours, they will be allowed to love themselves as their neighbours. For we must never forget what is the most repellent and inexplicable trait of our Enemy; He really loves the hairless bipeds He has created and always gives back to them with His right hand what He has taken with His left.” (Screwtape Letter 14)
Lewis puts into the mouth of Screwtape a second Truth that we must come to know in concrete terms; Father really loves us. Jesus found Himself in the appearance of a man and continued the act of emptying Himself by becoming obedient, even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:8). Father’s Love for us is made real in this act of obedience; we can get hold of the fact the Father really loves us because He died for us. The question is what is to be our response? We find ourselves wherever we are, just as Jesus found Himself in the appearance of a man. The question is whether or not we will obey. The nature of that obedience depends on who we see Father to be and what it is that He is asking from us.
“The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it that he would have been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents—or a sunrise, an elephant or a waterfall.’ (Screwtape Letter 14)
Lewis puts in the mouth of Screwtape a fundamental definition of humility. That humility is not thinking poorly about ourselves or holding a low-opinion of our own talents or any of the other stuff we would plug into the definition of humility but rather self-forgetfulness, not thinking of ourselves at all. If we really stop and think about it, this failure in grasping humility is the root of a lot of the conflict in our lives, conflict with neighbors, co-workers and family. We think of ourselves as being the ‘big deal’ and take up pointless challenges to who we think we are rather than seeing those around us for who they are and most importantly, Father at work in them and the world around us.
The Screwtape Letters – Week 6
April 13, 2014
Speaker: Bart Wilkins
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“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Screwtape Letters, XII
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Jesus, Matthew 7:13-14
Proverbs speaks a lot of walking the straight path, the good path, the path of the righteous and how we are seduced from it. We need to constantly be alert against being seduced from the narrow path (Proverbs 4:26-27). There are many things that attract us away from the narrow path. Although Proverbs seems to focus on adultery as the main seduction, it does mention many others such as laziness, gluttony, and haughtiness. Proverbs sums them up as “Folly” who calls out to those walking on the straight path and enticing them onto the way that is full of death (see Proverbs 9:13-18).
‘Finally, if all else fails, you can persuade him, in defiance of conscience, to continue the new acquaintance on the ground that he is, in some unspecified way, doing these people “good” by the mere fact of drinking their cocktails and laughing at their jokes, and that to cease to do so would be “priggish”, “intolerant”, and (of course) “Puritanical”.’ Screwtape Letters, X
We often find ourselves balancing ourselves between legalism and worldliness. It is one of the great seductions that the enemy has in his arsenal, gently pushing us one way by emphasizing the evilness of the other. In our last study we saw how Paul was concerned over how Peter had been seduced into legalism. Today we look at the other side, how we get seduced into worldliness by trying to avoid all appearances of legalism, or as Screwtape says it, being Puritanical.
‘But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man further away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.’ – Screwtape (Letter 12)
What is really dicey about this issue of seduction is that we really do want to go there. We have taken a stand on the Truth of the Death and Resurrection of Christ and now, for whatever reasons, we want to step off that Truth in order to gratify the flesh, our old natures, in the attempt to bring ourselves comfort and pleasure that appears to be lacking in our new way of thinking and living. Eve was seduced by the idea, planted in her by the Serpent that the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was ‘…good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom…’ (Genesis 3:6). Peter was seduced into living like a Jew and separating himself from the Gentiles because ‘…he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group’ (Galatians 2:12). Both decisions were in direct opposition to the revealed Plan and Purpose of Father in their lives, yet both decided that the ‘smart’ thing to do was to follow the seduction, the offer of something better.
The Screwtape Letters – Week 5
April 6, 2014
Speaker: Rob Yanike
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