For someone who has been a believer in Jesus for over 3 decades, I’ve been relatively slow to come to the writings of C.S. Lewis.
I struggled the most reading the latest, a fictional tale of temptation as told through the lens of a senior demon and his nephew. The mentor wrote 31 letters to the younger tempter full of advice for how to secure a single soul for the devil. I found most fascinating the subtlety of the enticements. Screwtape, the senior advisor tells his nephew that “the safest road to hell is a gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
Although the book is fictional, I think the ideas behind the way we are lured away from following Jesus hold up. Scripture tells us that Satan masquerades as an angel of light and his servants as servants of righteousness. For example, a man does not typically find himself happily married one day and cheating on his wife the next. It’s a progression of “smaller” sinful thoughts and behaviors allowed to run unchecked that more likely build up over time to escalate in an affair. The story made me think about what “gentle” temptations the main characters might employ to lead an entire family away from Christ if the letters were written today.
For Dad, the demons might send an inappropriate pop-up into his line of sight. They might convince him that his curiosity was perfectly normal and that once he clicked on it, visiting the site again wouldn’t hurt anyone. That no one would know if he looked at it again and again, and that it was a totally normal part of male sexuality. Soon the participation in on-line pornography would lead to a complete dissatisfaction in his marriage and a gorge-sized distance between himself and his wife.
For son, a fun video game can be parlayed into a full-blown obsession, keeping him up all hours of the night and encouraging him to opt out of church and youth group activities in favor of an on-line only community and the solitary loneliness of his room. Grades could suffer and social skills decline jeopardizing his future. And why would he spend time reading the bible or praying when the colorful, hi-tech graphics on the screen beckon?
For daughter, social media and popularity – all fun and games at first – slowly take first place in her heart as the temptation to check “likes” and “follows” is always in the palm of her hand. Texting and FaceTime – an easy way to stay in touch with friends soon interferes with her relationship with her parents and siblings. A second secret Instagram account allows her to talk to people and do things that her parents don’t know about. Watching videos on YouTube exposes her to language and situations that her parents would never allow if they knew. Comparing herself to the curated lives of others and the FOMO she experiences when she’s allowed a glimpse into what she is excluded from causes her to spiral into a dark depression.
For mom, finding fun activities to do with the kids slowly morphs as they age into an over-scheduled life. Private lessons for everything from music to dance to sports dot the calendar. Select sports teams fill the Sundays and Wednesdays the family once worshipped together and there is barely an evening to sit in the chairs at the family dinner table. Mom is basically chauffeur now and no longer has time for ladies bible study, mission opportunities or even spending time with friends. Her life is all about giving the kids what they want. And it’s rather lonely.
But the tempters failed in The Screwtape Letters. Their “patient” fell in love with a Christian woman who taught him how to love Jesus. And when he died, he entered heaven with all of God’s glory. The better news is that the same victory awaits us. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Arguments, pretensions and thoughts – the little, subtle things that precipitate a person’s walk away from God. We have the power to obliterate them if we are in Christ.
We all sin in subtle and not-so-subtle ways (Romans 3:23). But Romans 5:8 lets us know that God loves us in spite of it and made a way for us to come to him. But the BEST news is that belief in Jesus is the weapon we need to fight the fires of hell. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10
*All scripture references from the NIV version of the Bible.
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