One of the more prolific thinkers of the twentieth century is CS Lewis. I have a small book of his entitled Present Concerns which is a collection of essays he’d written over the years for various publications. One essay in particular caught my attention. It’s called “Three Kinds of People.” In that essay Lewis unpacks what I think is a critical distinction today for those from religious and non-religious backgrounds. In short, it’s a critical distinction all of us need to keep in mind, especially those of us who live and work in a religiously secular (my own odd sounding phrase) culture like New England. (I can’t say for sure, but it seems to me that even the non-religious people here have religious roots)
At any rate, Lewis says that first, there are those people who live for their own sake and pleasure. We would call those non-religious or irreligious people. Regardless of what you call them, or how you describe them, they are people who live any way they want. They simply don’t care for God or religion or spiritual things. In many cases, spiritual things aren’t even on their radar. There are more of these people around than you might think. Philosopher Charles Taylor has noted that this is the first time in human history when one can live one’s entire life without any sense of the transcendent.
Then, according to Lewis, there are those people who live with a sense that there is a greater claim on their lives—God’s claim. We’ll call these religious people. But more often than not, they surrender to that claim like a man surrenders to paying taxes. They do it because they have to, but then, who wants to pay taxes?! Consequently their faith is as sterile as tax day. It’s there, but they hope that having done their due diligence, and paid what they owe to God, there will be enough of life left over for them to have some fun.
And then finally, according to Lewis, there is a third type of person. This is the person who doesn’t feel that the will of God limits their will, but it is their will. Unlike the non-religious and religious persons, they don’t live for themselves but for God; for Christ. They do what they do for Gods sake, for his beauty’s sake, for his glory’s sake. For them to live is Christ, says Lewis.
This is a critical distinction for those who are followers of Christ, or for those who seek to know what it means to be a follower of Christ. Christianity isn’t about working hard to merit Gods blessing. That’s a tax payer mindset. Christianity is living a life of faith based on the hard work done for us on the cross by Christ. We don’t merit God’s grace. We don’t earn God’s grace. We receive God’s grace. There is no other world religion like this. None, so far as I can tell. And when that is your mind set, the resulting joy and delight that flows from it is palpable. The motivation for obedience and worship is beauty and delight. It’s the duty of beauty, or the duty of delight, as one person calls it. It’s thought provoking.