Pastoral Letter, no. 4

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My dear friends:

This coming Sunday morning, I plan on mentioning C. S. Lewis's essay on "The Inner Ring." I would encourage you to read it (or reread it as the case may be). You can find it on the internet here; you can also find it in his book, The Weight of Glory. The ten or so minutes that you'll spend reading it will be handsomely repaid, I think.

One reason I say this is that Lewis accurately and humorously touches on a mainspring of life in this world--the deep longing that many (most) of us have to be in the inner circle, in the know. He writes, "I believe that in all men's lives at certain periods, and in many men's lives at all periods between infancy and extreme old age, one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside." This inner circle is a group that has the sense that, while the rest of the world doesn't get it, "we are the people who know." If you are in the inner ring, you love the thought that you are; and if you are not, you desperately want to get in.

But part of the pleasure of being in the inner circle is the thought that there are those who are outsiders. There is a delicious (and somewhat perverse) delight that comes "from the loneliness and humiliation of the outsiders after you yourself were in" and even talking to other insiders in such way that "the outsiders might envy." We may think that such a longing to be in a clique or inner circle is the stuff of high school clubs or college sororities; but if we are honest with ourselves, we know that it is not. Of course, such inner rings are natural parts of life in the world. What is unnatural is our disordered desire to belong , our envy when we can't, and our odd (dis)satisfaction that results when we finally "make it."

Lewis's counsel is that we must conquer the fear of being an outsider; until we do, we will always remain an outsider of sorts, longing to become an insider and to break into the inner circle. But how do we conquer our fear? Well, certainly we must recognize that "the quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it." But really, the only way is to come back to the Gospel of God's grace again and again and ask God to drive deep into our hearts.

Because the Gospel truth is that Jesus was the somebody who became a nobody so that nobodies like us might become somebodies in him. In fact, through Jesus by the Spirit, we are drawn into fellowship and communion with the Triune God; the ultimate "inner circle" became inclusive in the most dramatic means possible--by including the ultimate outsiders, sinful humans made new through Jesus' death and resurrection. In doing this, he blew up all inner circles, all inner rings and cliques, for those who belong to him. But more, by his Spirit, God is able to wean us from the deep-seated longing to belong in the lesser inner circles. He has chosen us for so much more. 

Thanks be to God.

In the grip of God's grace,
Posted October 2, 2015 @ 12:28 PM by Sean Lucas

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