For some time, we’ve been moving deeper and deeper into Christian theology with Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. In the last section of the book, Lewis is undertaking to describe complex theological teachings and tenets in simple, easy-to-understand terms and pictures.
This chapter, “The Obstinate Toy Soldiers,” is about the dual nature of Christ – human and divine. And Lewis speaks in words and terms that are as profound as they are simple,
The result of God becoming man (and not just man but a baby man) “was that you now had one man who really was what all men were intended to be: one man in whom the created life, derived from His mother, allowed itself to be completely and perfectly turned into the begotten life. The natural human creature in Him was taken up fully into the divine Son. This is one instance humanity had, so to speak, arrived: had passed into the life of Christ.
“And because the whole difficulty for us is that the natural life has to be, in a sense, ‘killed,’ He chose an earthly career which involved the killing of His human desires at every turn – poverty, misunderstanding from His own family, betrayal by one of His intimate friends, being jeered at and manhandled by the police, and execution by torture. And then, after being thus killed – killed every day in a sense – the human creature in Him, because it was united to the divine Son, came to life again. The Man in Christ rose again: not only the god. That is the whole point. For the first time we saw a real man.”
Lewis draws a picture here of what it took his disciples a long time to see and understand – and every day Jesus “died” to his human desires, to be a living teaching for us. This is what it means to deny self. This is what is means to “take up the cross.” It doesn’t mean that we have to be physically crucified on a cross. It means that each day we learn to deny ourselves – not for the sake of some ascetic purification and that we become more “spiritually aware” – but for the sake of others, just like He did.
That’s the most difficult lesson for us to learn, and we have to keep relearning it all of our lives. It’s not about us. It’s about what He did and why He did it.
And in that learning, we don’t see our individual personalities destroyed. We see them become what they were originally meant to be.