Lewis on Repentance

From My Bookshelf Jun 29, 2009

I’m in an e-mail discussion regarding the role of mankind’s “will” and whether or not the phrase, “I Surrender All” is a biblical sentiment. Then I came across this paragraph in Mere Christianity:

Now what was the sort of ‘hole’ man had got himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realizing that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor–that is the only way out of our ‘hole’. This process of surrender–this movement full speed astern–is what Christians all repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person–and he would not need it.

Lewis goes on to explain what Christ did answer this conundrum.

C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity P. 56-57.

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