It Takes a Community
I recently read a great C.S. Lewis quote in Tim Keller’s book ‘The Prodigal God’. You will find the quote in the chapter entitled the “The Feast of the Father.” In this chapter Keller is making the point that salvation is experiential, material, individual, and communal. The quote is used in the section of the chapter dealing with the communal aspects of salvation and is worth the price of the book alone. The quote can be found in Lewis’ book ‘The Four Loves’ in an essay entitled “Friendship.”
In the lead up to the quote Keller states, “You can’t live the Christian life without a band of Christian friends, without a family of believers in which you find a place.”
Keller further sets up the quote by describing the situation underlying the quote:
“C.S. Lewis was part of a famous circle of friends called the Inklings, which included J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings, and also the author Charles Williams, who died unexpectedly.”
C.S. Lewis’ quote is a reflection on the results of the loss of his friend Charles Williams.
“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s [Tolkien’s] reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald…In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have.”
Keller sums it up:
“Lewis is saying that it took a community to know an individual.”
I had coffee with a friend today, and I realized so clearly that the change in her life for better or for worse is changing my life also. She is the person I have always gone to in order to be encouraged in the paths of righteousness. As I confessed to her a recent sin which I was unsure how to make right, I desired for her to offer some solid Biblical wisdom. She has always pushed me toward the cross in times of struggle. But today, I didn’t receive the same kind of wisdom I am accustomed to. There has been a change. And I feel a keen sense of loss. With this loss, I am very aware of a significant loss in myself.