The Perfect Penitent

CS Lewis continues to pack a ton of theology into a handful of pages. As he continues his narrowing of life into the Christian understanding, we are treated to his views on why Jesus came to earth. Lewis describes humans not as merely imperfect creatures who need improvement, but as rebels who need to lay down our arms, surrendering to God and seeking to start over from the ground floor. This process is called repentance, and is no fun at all.

But it is at the heart of Christianity, for all Christians agree that Jesus’ work on the cross was a substitution for our unpayable debt, which restores us into a right relationship with the Creator. But only a good person is capable of truly repenting (for it involves the death of the old man and unlearning thousands of years of training, which we as rebels are not willing to go through with) and only a bad person needs to repent. This is why Lewis believes Jesus was here, to go through the human experience for it is not in the Creator’s nature to suffer, to surrender, to submit and die. We needed to see God do this in order to have Him come alongside us and help us. We cannot do it on our own, and asking God to forgive us without being willing to repent is foolish. Repentance is what following in His footsteps looks like.To ask Him to take us back without repenting is asking Him to let us back without actually going back.

Lewis’ work on Jesus’ experience on the cross was a little tough to get through at first. It read as if he was saying God has limits imposed upon Himself. But where would these limits come from? In any event, after a few readings I felt that Lewis is onto something. It is not in God’s nature to give up control to someone else. We need to see that God was able to model self-sacrifice to us. We needed to see the perfect sacrifice, not because it is something we can fully attain, but because we need to see that it is possible to go through with God’s help.