When the pandemic first hit I shared a quote from Martin Luther about living through the plague–you can find it quoted here. Recently, this 1948 quote from C.S. Lewis has been making the rounds as well. It is Lewis’ response to this question:
“How are we to live in an atomic age?”
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb, when it comes, find us doing sensible and human things–praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bath the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts–not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”
Wisdom for Today
This C.S. Lewis quote packs a powerful and hopeful punch as we continue forward with the world around us seemingly falling apart. I, honestly, don’t know if it is a comfort or a horror to realize that the “unprecedented” times we have been living through are not really all that different than times passed.
Regardless, there is profound beauty and poignant wisdom in these words.
This week we have been living with the fruits of discipleship. Today we sit with the last bullet point from our road map. Being a disciple of Jesus helps us to push back against evil.
In these words from Lewis we have the recipe for just that. In the midst of all the challenges, all the heartbreak, and all the toxicity step into the sensible. Don’t let fear overcome you.
An Odd Comfort
Clearly this is not an invitation to be caviller. As Luther said, “I shall ask God to mercifully protect us, then I shall fumigate…” If you have not received the vaccine, consider again if now is the right time for you to receive it. But neither is it a time to live in fear.
What I appreciate most about both Luther’s quote and Lewis’ is that they release us from fretting about things that we are unable to control or fix. The stark reminder that we have all been given a death sentence is oddly comforting. If death is coming for us all, then take heart for death has been defeated by Jesus.
And so, as we wait for it to come, let the evil find us not paying heed or succumbing to fear.
Instead, let us be caught spreading kindness. Extending grace. Loving our enemy. Turning our cheeks. Practicing self-control. Seeing others’ actions in the best possible light. Instead of waiting upon death to take us, let us lose ourselves in the work of serving others. By the power of the Spirit, let us make beautiful creations, spread love, and embrace one another.
I know there is a lot that weighs on your shoulders. It weighs on mine too. And I know that most of these things are elements that we are passionate about. I’m not advocating letting our leaders off the hook. However, spreading peace, joy, and love is a great way to lean into the brokenness of the world and show it a better way.