Mere Christianity: A Safe Place

You may remember that last week, I wasn’t able to post on our Mere Christianity discussion. So today, you get a two-fer. (That means two fer the price of one, in case you aren’t familiar with the term.) I want to start by saying that there is so much in these two chapters I’m discussing today and while I don’t feel like I’m completely doing them justice, I’m also aware that we don’t have enough time or space or attention span here to cover it all. I’m going to take the two chapters and tie them together into one point that kept ringing in my ears as I read. So please, hang on tight and remember to please discuss at the end!

Several years ago, God told me that I am called to be like Nehemiah. That I should prayerfully build up a place where people can come and take shelter and be safe. I thought I knew what that meant, but I really didn’t. It wasn’t until shortly after that when I was invited to a weekly Bible study at a friend’s home that I began to understand.

When I walked into the Brown’s home that evening, I found myself surrounded by former cocaine addicts and prostitutes and guys covered with tattoos and with body piercings in places I’d never known could be pierced before. In short, I found myself with a group of people who weren’t really accepted by the church and who were looking for a safe place to go. A place where they could be open, be themselves, be loved, and grow. They were looking for a Nehemiah and they found one at the Brown’s house when there was no other place that they were really welcome.

When I read last week’s chapter, many things resonated with me, but it was this one short fragment of a sentence that stopped me:

“…if you are worried about people on the outside, the most reasonable thing you can do is remain outside yourself.” (Lewis, 65)

God just didn’t want me to create a safe place for people to come for shelter and understanding and peace… He wants me to BE that place. And even more, He doesn’t need me to be that place in the church. He needs me to be that place with other people that don’t feel safe in church. They don’t know how to come to the shelter, so God can use me to take the shelter to them.

Notice! He didn’t tell me to judge them, “fix” them or change them. He just told me to love them and be a safe place for them.

At the beginning of the next chapter (today’s chapter), Lewis gives an example:

“There is a story about a schoolboy who was asked what he thought God was like. He replied that, as far as he could make out, God was ‘The sort of person who is always snooping round to see if anyone is enjoying himself and then trying to stop it.’” (Lewis, 69)

Who isn’t guilty of, at some time or another, putting God in a box? Instead of getting to know Him, we allow our experiences to draw a picture of God in our mind. Then, we put Him in a frame to keep Him where we think we can control Him—or at the very least keep Him from surprising us or catching us off guard.

When I put it that way, it sounds ludicrous to me. God can’t be controlled or predicted! But isn’t that what we often do? So, why does it surprise, anger, and appall us churched folks when unchurched folks do the same thing? When they assume that God is like the father that abused or abandoned them, why does that surprise us? When they think of God as the cranky, sour-faced authoritarian principal that would never let them smile or laugh or express themselves, why do we forget that we’ve done the same thing? And when they see church leaders judging them, how can we get offended when they judge church leaders, as well?

I’m not going to tie this discussion up in a neat bow today. I want to leave these questions open-ended. Feel free to discuss them in the comments. In fact, I encourage it and promise to respond to anyone who wants to discuss it with me.

See, here’s the thing I’m dealing with, personally: God wants me to walk in the world, carrying a safe place to those who don’t have one. To do that, I have to realize every day (and I do—more and more deeply every day) that I don’t have the right to judge people that are a little bit different than me. And to do that, I have to realize every day (and I do—more and more every day) that we’re really not all that different.

This post is part of the regularly-scheduled book discussion my friend, Jason, and I co-facilitate each Wednesday. 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. Some of your closing thoughts go hand in hand with my thoughts today, but your thoughts on us trying to control or predict God really grabbed me.

    We want God to work our way… which translated means we want everything to go great for us. We want to win the lottery, have perfect health, never know loss or struggle, etc… I mean we deserve the good life because we are good people. We are definitely better than so and so and look how easy they have it.

    And then when it doesn’t we want to throw tantrums…

    Reminds me of a little four year old who is running around my house.

    Maybe one day we will realize and completely accept that God’s ways are always Higher and Better than our own. Kind of like as we get older we begin to realize our parents were not complete morons and Nazi’s after all.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Dusty, we all have that self-centered four-year-old inside of us. The question is what we do with that self-centered four-year-old. Do we let it cause us to make ourselves the center of our universe? That equates to idolatry of self and megalomania. And if I’m focused on making MY world all happy and perfect and ME-centered, then how will I ever bless others or make THEIR world better? For me, it’s a day-by-day, minute-by-minute decision to care more about others than about myself. Sometimes I win the battle. Sometimes I lose the battle. But that’s okay, as long as I continue to fight the battle.

    As always, thanks for coming by. I always love to hear what you have to say. 🙂

  3. People who are hurting see God differently than people who are healing. And people who are healing like to believe they will never hurt again (me included sometimes). It’s hard to love like He loved knowing we will be hurt as He was hurt.

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