Mere Christianity: The Sheep & The Goats

“That is why Christians are told not to judge. We see only the results which a man’s choices make out of his raw materials. But God does not judge him on the raw material at all, but on what he has done with it.” (Lewis, 86)

One of the biggest and most valid complaints that non-Christians have about Christians is how judgmental we are. For many Christians, it’s as though when they accept Jesus into their hearts, they feel they suddenly have the right to stand on a holy pedestal and begin to separate everyone they meet into “the sheep” and “the goats.”

I’ve done it before, too. And while it can make the Christian’s life temporarily more comfortable in some ways, it’s wrong and will eventually lead to hurt for everyone. It does nothing to make you more Christ-like. In fact, it not just separates you from people, it also separates you from God. (See Proverbs 6:19.)

CS Lewis reminds us that each and every person is different. We are each made of different DNA and different experiences. And just because something is true for me, doesn’t necessarily make it true for everybody in every circumstance. To give a simple, silly (but true) example, while a peanut butter sandwich may be nourishment for me, it will be death to someone with a severe peanut allergy. As a peanut butter lover, I should never look down on someone who dislikes it—especially if I don’t know them well enough to know why.

One of the dangers of taking it upon ourselves to separate “the sheep” and “the goats” is that when we do that, we forget what we’re supposed to really be doing: becoming more like Christ.

“We may, indeed, be sure that perfect chastity—like perfect charity—will not be attained by any merely human efforts. You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself, but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God.” (Lewis, 93-94)

This week’s chapter of Lewis’ book is on “Sexual Morality,” but in my opinion, this excerpt is a great description of Christianity as a whole. We aren’t perfect. We are going to fail. We are going to fall. But we keep getting up. And at the end of the course, when we look back, we’ll realize that the times we were standing, it’s because we let God hold us up.

This post is part of the regularly-scheduled book discussion my friend, Jason, and I co-facilitate each Wednesday. My post this week is actually a discussion of the last TWO chapters since I was unable to post last week. We are currently discussing CS Lewis’ classic book, Mere Christianity. We invite you to come along whether you’ve done the reading or not. All comments are welcome. And if you’ve written a response to this chapter on your own blog, please feel free to link your post via the link widget below. Thanks for coming by! You are always welcome!

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  1. We forget that we’re not the ones with the authority to separate the sheep from the goats — though we want to be. Good post, Sarah, and thanks for hosting.

  2. I echo Glynn’s comment. There is a fine line between admonishing someone in love and judging/condemning someone for a sinful act.

  3. This relates to other Christians not the world at large, of course, but I think it’s worth saying. I did a Bible study on church discipline last night, first time to teach on it. It was very interesting to say the least! The foundational teaching from Jesus in Matthew 18 doesn’t involve someone running to church leaders to rebuke someone who’s strayed. It involves one believer going to another believer in love. That’s the defining factor: love. If it’s our opinion, we can shut up about it (although many of us as Christians don’t know the difference between opinion and scripture). If someone is going the wrong direction and we know it by God’s word, we have to intervene. Thanks Sarah.

  4. I was thinking along the same lines when I read that paragraph. You know what they say about great minds… 🙂 Blessings!

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