Reading the introduction of Walter Hooper (Lewis’ assistant in the last couple of years of his life) to this book, which is a collection of sermons and messages by Clive Staples Lewis, you wish that you have a close friend like Lewis: loves life and lives, is heavenly-minded yet retains his earthly influence, speaks as though he has eavesdropped on the secret conversations of angels. These of Lewis’ life perceptions were all expressed in the eponymous sermon of this book the Weight of Glory.
I must first admit that the chapter was hard to get through: I lost the flow a couple of times and had to reread some portions to follow Lewis’ thoughts. I concluded that his original audience was probably better educated and clear minded than me to capture his message, through which he marvelled about the immortality of man:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner – no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.
Even nature, which inspires worship and speaks of the glory of God, is ‘mortal’ as they would be destroyed one day. Lewis reckoned that nature is only a symbol, an image of the glory that will cloth us immortals in heaven. We are made for heaven, but our desire for our proper place already in us is not yet attached to the true object. It is a reward that we will not know till we get it. As Lewis linked up our desire for rewards and our lack of this for heaven, it was easy to recognise how his message influenced John Piper in his theology of desiring God and asking the Giver of all good things for the right desires.
I need to digress here to mention Ps 37:4, Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. For the some time, I took it to mean that if I sought to delight God through my obedience, He would give me what I want. But that’s not it; that interpretation does not point to grace but works. Rather, what God promises is that as we obey, even if it is first a duty without desire or delight, He will give us the desire for His things in the end. He will grant us desire for His kingdom’s matters, for His own heart, as we learn to obey. Maybe there are times we shun obedience because we lack the desire and reasoned that to obey without desire is hypocritical. Yet, virtue exists in admitting our lack of desire and asking God to grant it as we work out our obedience, than to not do anything at all.
Coming back to the issue of glory, Lewis put forth that while we may consider about our own divine glory before God, we think too little, or not at all, of the glory of our neighbour. This glory is to be ‘noticed’ by God – a strange proposition, but is supported by 1 Corinthians 8:3, But the man who loves God is known by God. And the man who loves God through a relationship with Christ has all of Christ’s glory latent in him. I’m reminded of Colossian 1:28, i.e. Christ in you, the hope of glory. This truly is the goal of every man – to glorify God!
And it is this weight of glory of our fellow-men that we bear, knowing that each person we meet is an immortal, created for the glory of God.