A good friend of mine recently sent me an excerpt from a C.S. Lewis’ sermon called “Weight of Glory”. In this sermon, Mr. Lewis admonished that every person who comes into your presence is immortal. Whatever you think of them, this is an immortal: a person who will one day be a soul of immense weight and glory — or a horror of corruption.
For a moment, imagine the person you know best (you know, the one you love but who laughs too loudly, or passes smelly gas at weird times, or simply repeats themselves until you think you will go mad). Or think of the person you don’t love but must interact with (the neighbor who doesn’t repair the fence but complains about your dogs, the clerk who nitpicks every error, the driver who rushes up in the construction zone and dives in at the last minute). Now, instead of seeing them in all their annoying human frailty, clothe them with immortality.
This person is immortal – s/he will live forever. Either as a child of God, forgiven and bathed in Glory…or thrown into the river of eternal fire where they will suffer things we don’t even want to imagine. Forgiven, glory – or horror, river of fire. When viewed this way, their more annoying behavior fades into insignificance.
It is, as Mr. Lewis observed in his sermon, a “serious thing” to live moment to moment with the weight of our neighbors’ glory on our backs. It is (or should be) quite humbling to remember that this person – whom we may love or despise, admire or want to avoid at all costs – is one that we can nudge closer to God or farther away with our words and actions. In this moment, when we are confronted with this person, we should ask ourselves this question: am I moving them closer to God? Am I helping them lean towards forgiven and glory? Or am I helping them move towards horror and corruption? This is the weight you and I bear when we are confronted with another person. It should make us humble – our words and actions have eternal consequence.
Mr. Lewis ends with this thought: each person you encounter is the holiest object presented to your senses. If this person is a Christian s/he is already consecrated and holy – you are interacting with a holy immortal across the table or across the fence. Our words and behavior should encourage them in their trust of The One. If this person is not a Believer, you are still interacting with an immortal – the question is yet to be answered if they will be an immortal forgiven…or a horror and corruption.
Today, as we each go about our life or visit hard-to-love family over the holidays, remember you walk among immortals. Our words and behavior reflect what we believe about them. When we remember that they are immortal (and if we believe they are valuable to God), we will treat them as the treasure God says they are. It might look like this:
- reply with a gentle word in the face of anger (Proverbs 15:1);
- ignore insults from those who don’t know any better (Proverbs 12:16);
- forgive 70 times 7 times (Luke 17:4).
You see, our words and behavior will point them towards God. Or not.
We have but this one life to influence each other’s immortal status, so “be ye holy, for I am holy”(1 Peter 1:16) and “in humility count others as more significant than yourself.” (Philippians 2:3). May you, my sweet brothers and sisters in the faith, tap the power of the Holy Spirit in you and so nudge someone closer to God…