Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Desiring God

C.S. Lewis
(very slightly edited to iron unnecessary wrinkles to the contemporary eye)

If you asked twenty good people today
what they thought to be the highest of
the virtues, nineteen of them would
reply "Unselfishness." But if you asked
almost any of the great Christians of old the
reply would have been "Love." Do you see what
has happened? A negative term has been
substituted for a positive, and this is of
more than philological importance. The
negative ideal of "Unselfishness" carries with
it the suggestion not primarily of securing
good things for others, but of going
without them ourselves, as if our
abstinence and not their happiness was the
important point. I do not think this is the
Christian virtue of "Love." The New
Testament has much to say about self-denial,
but not about self-denial as an end in itself.
We are told to deny ourselves and to take
up our crosses in order that we may follow
Christ; and nearly every description of
what we shall ultimately find if we do so
contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks
in most modern minds the notion that to
desire our own good and to earnestly hope
for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I
submit that this notion has crept in from
Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the
Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the
unblushing and staggering promises of
the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would
seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong,
but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures,
fooling around with drink and drugs and sex and
sports and ambition when infinite joy is offered
to us. We are like an ignorant child who wants to
go on making mud pies in a slum because he
cannot imagine what is meant by the offer
of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily