“A man’s most genuinely Christian actions fall entirely outside that part of his life which he calls religious.” – CS Lewis
One of the greatest obstacles to real discipleship where people apply the life of Jesus in their whole world is our tendency to compartmentalize. We think we’re OK because in the “religious department” of our lives we’re on track. But if what we learn from Jesus isn’t shaping every other aspect of our lives, we’re don’t really understand His call in our lives.
C.S. Lewis puts it simply: “A man’s most genuinely Christian actions fall entirely outside that part of his life which he calls religious.”
The source of this quote is C.S. Lewis’ book Letters to Malcolm. Here’s the larger context:
I can well understand how a man who is trying to love God and his neighbour should come to dislike the very word religion; a word, by the way, which hardly ever appears in the New Testament. Newman makes my blood run cold when he says in one of the Parochial and Plain Sermons that Heaven is like a church because, in both, ‘one single sovereign subject—religion—is brought before us.” He forgets that there is no temple in the new Jerusalem.
He has substituted religion for God—as if navigation were substituted for arrival, or battle for victory, or wooing for marriage, or in general the means for the end. But even in this present life, there is danger in the very concept of religion. It carries the suggestion that this is one more department of life, an extra department added to the economic, the social, the intellectual, the recreational, and all the rest. But that whose claims are infinite can have no standing as a department. Either it is an illusion or else our whole life falls under it. We have no non-religious activities; only religious and irreligious.
Religion, nevertheless, appears to exist as a department, and, in some ages, to thrive as such. It thrives partly because there exists in many people a ‘love of religious observances,’ which I think Simone Weil is quite right in regarding as a merely natural taste. There exists also—Vidler is rather good on this—the delight in religious (as in any other) organization. Then all sorts of aesthetic, sentimental, historical, political interests are drawn in. Finally sales of work, the parish magazine, and bell-ringing, and Santa Claus.
None of them bad things. But none of them is necessarily of more spiritual value than the activities we call secular. And they are infinitely dangerous when this is not understood. This department of life, labelled ‘sacred,’ can become an end in itself; an idol that hides both God and my neighbours. (‘When the means are autonomous they are deadly.’) It may even come about that a man’s most genuinely Christian actions fall entirely outside that part of his life which he calls religious.
That’s some wisdom, right there.
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