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Tolerance that Parodies Love

It shouldn't surprise us--but we all too often find ourselves wondering at the relevance with which an author of a bygone generation speaks into the atmosphere of our contemporary culture. Such has frequently been the case for me when I have read J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism and his What is Faith? Such also has been true for me when I read many C. S. Lewis' shorter works. Writing many of his greatest works during the period of the second World War, Lewis tackled issues that formed something of a bridge between modernity and post-modernity. Some may argue that his relevance came from the fact that the Brittish intellectual context put him several decades ahead of the American; however, in the truest sense, what he observed about human nature may justly be deemed timeless--falling under the rubric of the Solomonic proverbial sagacity, "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun" (Eccl. 1:9). At the close of his masterful sermon,  "Weight of Glory," Lewis made an application of the truths he expressed. He stressed our need to love our neighbor by seeking to help them see their need for Christ. Almost in passing, Lewis explained that a failure to care for them biblically is nothing other than "tolerance or indulgence that parodies love." In a day when we are constantly being told that love is "tolerance to all religious or anti-religious expression" Lewis' words are greatly needed and heartily welcomed. He wrote:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—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.1

1. Taken from C.S. Lewis' “The Weight of Glory” (Preached originally as a sermon in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, on June 8, 1942: published in Theology, November, 1941).

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