In C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Lewis sets about to clarify and establish his thesis regarding his explanation of the Christian faith. In the Preface, Lewis describes the Christian theology as a hall filled with many doors. The doors, in some respect, represent the many varying denominations of Christianity. From Protestantism to Catholicism to Baptist to Methodism and all in between each has major and minor differences from one another. I, convictionally, hold to the baptist faith for many reasons that I will not be going into detail here (perhaps that shall be better suited to it’s own post in the future). Lewis premise in its essence falls that it is the choice of the individual whether or not to enter into any particular door. They may wait in the hall, but it is not God who makes them wait. Just as salvation is offered freely, an open door if you will, that one chooses to accept. Lewis concluded his preface with this:
“When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall. If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more; and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them. That is one of the rules common to the whole house.”
When I read this this evening it resonated with me in an impactful way. In terms of evangelism, or the sharing of the gospel, prayer for those who may not have entered the hall is something I do not feel that we (I) do often enough. In fact, I felt some conviction in reading this. As I do not always enter into the presence of the Lord as often or readily as I ought to. Praying for our enemies stuck an even deeper pang of conviction. While I may be reading more into Lewis’ work than is there, I see choosing the wrong door as, perhaps, a false religion or an incorrect belief. Temporarily setting aside religious beliefs, Americans have a habit of looking to anything that differs or threatens our way of living as our enemy. In terms of recent events across the globe and at home, the Islamic State has taken a position in that space. Even within the Church, we have a dreadful tendency of jumping on the bandwagon that is culture, looking toward the Muslim world as the enemy. We even take the stance of suggesting that we bomb or more accurately annihilate the Muslim world. This stance stands in stark opposition to what we as believers are called to do.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
-Matthew 22:37-39 ESV
This is known as the Great Commission. Jesus in this passage in not only commanding us in how we ought to treat one another, but also in how we ought to pray for those who do not stand in the same room as ourselves. Just as Jesus commanded us, believers, just as Lewis describes “the rules common to the whole house” as an order. The Church ought not have such a knee-jerk reaction to those of differing beliefs, yet we often do. We ought to engage in deep, intentional, purposeful prayer for those who stand out in the hall that we too have come into and through. I know that I can fail to do just this, and can react in a less than ideal way when it comes to my enemies. Even Jesus prayed for his accusers, you and I, as he was crucified.
“And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”
The people mocked Jesus, who lived a perfect sinless life, as he came to save them. Had Jesus reacted as you and I so often do to those who persecute and mock us, where would we be? I know that throughout my life, especially when I was younger, I did not pray for those who picked on me, who teased me. I lashed out at them, I sought retribution, revenge. I was angry. Mean. Wounded. I have learned to be more forgiving, to not count or hold transgressions against others. So when I feel hurt, or wounded, I feel convicted that I do not always respond the same way as Jesus. That I do not walk in the same accordance as him. The Church too responds like this. As believers would we be so willing to condemn others to hell? As believers would we defy what has been charged of us? Despite out American outlook, our limited perspective, all of mankind is our neighbor. We are not any more different, better than the next. We are all flesh and blood. Created by God. We all occupy this hall as Lewis describes, and we must choose whether or not to step through the door. It is a conscious choice. A convictional choice. We must pray for those who we see as enemies, pray for those who do not share our views. The Church must resist from following the trends of the world, and stand as a light in this dark world. Just as we were once lost, it is our responsibility to share the gospel with the nations. To love our neighbors as ourselves. To pray for those who my be our enemies.
Thus I too must maintain my perspective through the eyes of God. I must be intentional in my prayers. Intentional in making time to enter into the presence of the Lord. To love those who need love the most. To remember that not everyone has chosen a door to enter. To remember that some have chosen the wrong door. To love not condemn those for choosing the wrong door. To follow the common rules to the whole house of God. The rules of the Kingdom of God.