PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Christian Life-Hard or Easy? Egg Hatched or Bad? Happy Hypocrite? Shaping Saint? By: Ron Woordrum
I love the passage in Mere Christianity where C.S. Lewis talks about whether the Christian life is hard or easy. “It’s both”, he says, “hard as death in the beginning, and then as his life begins to work within us and transform us, it becomes relatively easy, because He does the work of transforming us. We are to hand ourselves over to Christ, to be ploughed and resown. We are to have the bad tooth out, and a new tooth given us. It is like death. But then, He lives with us and helps us to do impossible things. In that way it is easy! As we experience moments of victory, a new sort of life is spreading throughout your system” and that is the way sanctification works. “At first it is the idea of ‘putting on Christ’…dressing up as the Son of God…to become a real son. This is not one of the many jobs a Christian has to do, or a special exercise for the top of the class. It is the whole of Christianity. Christianity offers nothing else at all! The Christian way is hard and easy. Christ says, ‘give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you! I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it! No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it…but to have it out! Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires that you think are innocent as well as the ones wicked-the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours’ ““The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing is to hand over your whole self-all your wishes and precautions-to Christ. But it is far easier than what all we are trying to do instead. For we are trying to remain ourselves…and all the while trying to be and do good…which we on our own can never accomplish. When Jesus said, ‘be perfect’, He meant exactly that! He meant we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder-in fact impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: but it would be a jolly sight harder for the egg to learn to fly!-while remaining an egg! We are like eggs at present. You cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad! This is the whole of Christianity. There is nothing else. It is easy to get muddled about that! It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of different aspects- education, building, missions, and holding worship services. The Church exists for nothing else than to draw men to Christ, to make them little-Christ’s. If they are not doing that, all the Cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose!”
Then Lewis alludes to the Happy Hypocrite, (by inference). He says, “The story is told of someone who had to wear a mask, a mask which made him look much nicer than he really was. He had to wear it for years. And when he took it off he found that his own face had grown to fit it. He really was beautiful. What had become a disguise had become a reality!” Frederick Buechner identifies that tale, in his book Telling the Truth, as a story written by Max Beerbohn titled The Happy Hypocrite. Mr. Buechner summarizes the story: “In the Happy Hypocrite Beerbohn tells about a regency rake name Lord George Hell, debauched and profligate, who falls in love with a saintly girl, and in order to win her love, covers his features with the mask of a saint. This girl is deceived and becomes his bride. They live happily ever after until a wicked lady from Lord Hell’s past turns up to expose the scoundrel she knows him to be and challenges him to take off his mask! So sadly, having no choice, he takes it off, and lo and behold beneath the saint’s mask is the face of a saint he has become by wearing it in love.”
The moral of the story, and Mr. Lewis’ reason for making reference to it is this: we are not yet what we pretend to be (Christ like), but the more we desire it, and yield to Him, the more we will become like Him. Virtue by definition is the habit of a right desire. Habitually yielding to Him will eventually form Him in us, by the power of mind-renewing. You may be wondering what is the difference in acting like Christ when we are not yet like him and hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is acting in one way we never intend to become. The man in the Happy Hypocrite was a corrupt man who pretended to be a saint and became a good man. Thus the word “Happy” in the title. The book is worth hunting down and reading. For us what can become a hopeful disguise can and will become a reality…if we let him hatch us and shape us into that saint! It’s hard. Impossible really! But it’s easy!