C.S. Lewis on loving and punishing your enemy

Theology ought to be of interest to every well-formed adult. This I contend. Whether or not there be a God or an afterlife and what, if anything, one can do to affect one’s standing in the hereafter – these are supremely important considerations.

And yet, most of us don’t give these concerns much thought. Forget about actual study! Despite counting myself a stout Papist, I too am remiss. Bills to pay, science fiction to read, housework to do! But I’m working on it.

Every so often I revisit C.S. Lewis, my favorite apologist. For a few years now, I’ve had this fat tome sitting on my shelf gathering dust, and it’s got some of his best stuff – Mere Christianity, the Screwtape Letters, the Great Divorce, the Problem of Pain, Miracles, a Grief Observed, and the Abolition of Man. I’ve only read the first two (Mere Christianity more than once, though I am ashamed to admit I never retain as much of it as I’d wish).

Grand Tetons

Recently I’ve been making my way once again through it, and periodically posting tidbits on Twitter. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide what to snip, when there’s so much wisdom distilled into every chapter.

First, let me just acknowledge – someone pointed out, in disagreeing with one of Lewis’ points in an excerpt that I posted, that he was not a theologian, but an essayist and writer of stories. Although some do call him a lay theologian, that is true! And he would have been quick to admit it. The humility with which Lewis shared his thoughts and ideas about Christianity and faith is admirable. He sprinkled his writings with such comments – admitting that he was by no means a great authority and that he could very well be mistaken on many points. Still, there is a great deal of logic and sense and grace in much of what he says.

It’s with this in mind that I wanted to share a few of his thoughts on charity, forgiveness, and punishment, that particularly moved me.


It could be that men and societies have always been quite polarized, but in the US many are commenting that they feel especially so today. This rings particularly true when online. I’ve made many friends online, actually. Some of these friendships have grown to become offline, relatively normal relationships. But animosity and hatred thrive and pulsate and fester online. It’s all too easy to hate an avatar or a faceless internet troll; a leftists, an SJW, or maybe an alt-righter or “right wing nutjob.”

But no matter how much we may want to hate these people, and even should we ever have to fight them (I mean real fighting, not this online crusading nonsense), we are called not to hate them. I am glad I read this when I did, because honestly it’s easy to get weighed down in the Internet and Culture Wars. Everything starts to look and feel ugly.


This is true. I’ve felt it and I’ve seen others who seemed to be falling prey to this.


It sounds rather trite, but hate begets hate.

Now I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious with this. Quite the contrary. Just this past weekend I found myself angry and agitated at certain people and circumstances, and I had to remind myself not to hate, but to try and be more charitable. Getting angry all the time and letting it boil makes one more prone to become angry, in my experience. Something I’ve got to keep working on.


And here Lewis makes an interesting point, and I think one that squares with the idea of the Church Militant (or even “Deus Vult” for you memers!), provided such a posture is not driven by a hatred of people. I did not remember this from my previous readings, and the element of the translational difference between “kill” and “murder” strikes me as quite important.

Fighting is not contrary to Christianity. Nor is killing, even. In some cases a good Christian may even be not only permitted but compelled by his faith to kill, such as in defense of his wife or children or other innocents.

But we must be wary of hate. It’s a cold, dark pit to sink into. There is a power there, but it is not of God.




5 thoughts on “C.S. Lewis on loving and punishing your enemy

  1. I go back and forth between whether I like Mere Christianity or Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man more, although I don’t find either entirely satisfying.

    A Grief Observed may be the greatest book I have ever read.

    I used to try to read one religious book per year. I’ve been slacking off recently, though. I really need to pick something up in the near future.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read a The Everlasting Man some years ago and remember being impressed with it. Would like to read again sometime.

      The thing I love most about Lewis is how simply and conversationally he writes. It’s a pleasure to read apologetics without having to really strain and concentrate to understand. Perhaps that speaks more to my deficiencies than anything else, but.. :P


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