C.S. Lewis and Mere Christianity: 4:9–Counting the Cost


As C.S. Lewis continues to wrap up his book Mere Christianity, he addresses the idea in the Bible in which God says, “Be ye perfect.” He makes it clear that “becoming perfect” is not a requirement you must achieve in order for God to accept you. Rather, it is the goal and purpose for which God made you in the first place. And therefore, Lewis says, if you accept Christ, “becoming perfect” is what you’re in for—and no half-measures are any good.

In typical Lewis fashion, he once again provides a very good analogy—one which I simply cannot do better than:

“Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed…or which is obviously spoiling daily life. Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.

“That is why He warned people to ‘count the cost’ before becoming Christians. ‘Make no mistake,’ He says, ‘if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect—until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you as He said He was well pleased with Me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.’”

…and there you have it. I don’t think I can really say it any better. I will say this though: it’s one thing to read those words and be impressed by them. It’s one thing to almost get all “macho” and say, “Yeah! Salvation costs you everything!” It’s quite another thing when you are actually going through that suffering—when you’re in the middle of heart-wrenching pain, when you don’t know what is up or down, and when you find yourself screaming at God, “Enough! I didn’t sign up for this! It’s not fair!”

I know I’ve sworn my head off at God at times. I think he can take it. In fact, it’s at those times I can almost hear him say, “I know this isn’t what you signed up for. But you can’t conceive the end result…so suck it up.” If that sounds like I’m making God out to be a bit harsh…I am. I think he is—at least from my perspective. But that’s the thing—it’s only from my perspective.

In any case, Lewis provides yet one more superb analogy to get into our heads about what being made perfect is like. He borrowed it from his favorite writer, George MacDonald:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage; but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

I think too often people, even Christians, really short-change what salvation really is about. We picture it as really nothing more than us walking on streets of gold in white robes, and always smiling…but still being our puny little selves, just a bit cleaner. Needless to say, I don’t think we really grasp what God is up to. Thankfully, Lewis has, for me, given me a bit of a better glimpse.

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