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C. S. Lewis on Marriage and Forgiveness:

So much has been written on marriage and forgiveness, but Lewis has some fresh ideas, and I’m looking forward to edifying discussions! When he gave his radio address on marriage he thought it might be his most unpopular address, but then he changed his mind when he spoke on forgiveness, saying, this would be the most unpopular subject. Remember, he was speaking to an audience who were experiencing terrible atrocities from the Nazis. Lewis said:

Forgiveness is hard, for it means letting someone off the hook who does not deserve to be let off the hook! As Lewis said:

I’d like to tell you a story Billy told at my church, The Orchard, recently. Billy was baptized in the lake outside my house two summers ago, after “everything in his head fell to his heart” while mowing the lawn. Billy and Roxy were newlyweds at the time.

Billy supports his wife and newborn son with an outdoor maintenance company. He recently, on faith, bought more equipment to hire a full-time employee. For several weeks he trained a young man, but when the training was over, he got an e-mail saying, “I quit and I’m never coming back.”

Billy said, “I was mad at him, and honestly, I was mad at God because I had prayed about this and stepped out on faith.” It is very hard to find help where we live, and now Billy not only had angry customers but also debt.

We were going through my book, Idol Lies, and Billy began to realize that a control idol was at the heart of his bitterness. Billy went to his former employee and not only confessed his lack of forgiveness toward him, but also his own sin, for he had seen he truly had done some things wrong in his way of dealing with him. Now that employee has come back to work for Billy and also mentioned that he was noticing that Billy lived his faith — and it intrigued him, for he is not a Christian.

Our own Lizzy has used the term “a play-dough” heart, which I see in Billy. A play-dough heart makes us able to respond to God’s high standard for marriage and for forgiveness.

(Note to active bloggers: The button is back for you to receive notifications of responses to you. If you check it and wish you hadn’t because of the number of e-mails in your box, then next week if you don’t check it, it will stop.)


1. What stands out to you from the above and why?

Monday: Christian Marriage


2. Read or listen to Lewis’ chapter on Christian marriage and share something that stands out to you — and explain why.


Tuesday: Reflecting on Lewis and Marriage (Oneness and Divorce)

When Steve and I wrote our study guide on marriage, it became so clear that the prevailing theme was “the two shall become one,” beginning in Genesis and repeated five times in Scripture. It also foreshadows our becoming one with our ultimate Bridegroom. This is where Lewis lands for his basis for Christian marriage:

 The inventor of the human machine is telling us that its two halves, male and female, were meant to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. 

3. With this as the foundation, Lewis discusses divorce. He says denominations may disagree on when divorce is permissible, but the way they view divorce is different than the way the world views divorce. How do Christians, according to Lewis, view divorce? Do you think this can be supported scripturally?


4. He believes that if two people don’t take the above view of divorce, but divorce whenever one of their needs are not being met, it is better to live together than to marry. Why, does he say? Do you agree or not and why?

Wednesday: More Reflections, Including Some Controversy, on Marriage

Christian marriage is a covenant relationship, whereas worldly marriage is more likely to be a consumer relationship. But in our hearts, Lewis shows, we each desire a covenant rather than a consumer relationship. Lewis refers to Chesterton who says “those who are in love have a desire to bind themselves by promises.”

5. Do you agree? Have you experienced this? How is this evidence of God putting His law in our hearts?


G. K. Chesterton was a Catholic who died shortly before World War II began, and wrote the Father Brown series which has now been adapted for Netflix. Like Lewis, he saw that love can make us generous and brave.

6. Lewis talks about what happens to people who persevere when the thrill is gone in marriage. What did he say? Do you agree or disagree? What has been your experience?


7. At the close, Lewis states he thinks there should be two kinds of marriage: one governed by the state with its rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the church with its rules enforced on its members. This is controversial, indeed. I am not sure I agree, going back to the truth that no man is an island. I do wonder if Lewis would say the same today, in view of the drastic changes that have taken place. Homosexual marriage does affect us all, as does polygamy and bigamy. It hurts human flourishing. Yes Lewis says, for example, if Mohammedans tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. What do you think about this and why?


8. At the close, Lewis also addresses the topic of headship.What does he say? Do you agree or disagree that it seems unnatural for a woman to take the role of headship? Thoughts?

Thursday: Forgiveness

9. Read or listen to Lewis chapter on forgiveness and share something that stood out to you and why.

Friday: Reflecting on Forgiveness

10. How does Lewis dispute the idea that loving your neighbor means feel fond of him or thinking  of him as nice? Does this help you? Why or why not?


11. How did Lewis come to believe this was true: “hate the sin but not the man?”


12. Why does Lewis believe you can not hate someone but still punish him?


13. Lewis was not a pacifist. Why? Do you agree or not? (I do disagree with him here and will share.)

14. Is there anything in this chapter that will help you to better forgive? If so, what?



   15. What is your take-a-way and why?


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  1. 14. Is there anything in this chapter that will help you to better forgive? If so, what?
    a. Lewis quote: Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive.” Akin to what you said once, Dee. I live in comfort and not beset with too many setbacks or struggles. But when I went to the Philippines, I, too realized, I need to work on a lot of things that I thought I was doing well at, e.g. patience. So same with forgiveness. I can easily be forgiving on the outside perhaps of students because I feel I need to. But when I was asked to forgive somebody who I believe maligned me to others, it was hard to be forgiving. Only by the grace of God am I able to process that situation and it took me awhile to let go.

    1. Bing, I can so relate to how it’s easier to forgive those in our “outside circle” than it is to forgive those closest to us.

  2. 15. What is your take-a-way and why?
    Chesterton Quote: “Love can make us brave and generous.” I think this sums it up for me in terms of the topic of marriage and forgiveness. Because of love, I can be brave in fighting for my marriage and be generous in giving of myself to my husband. Because of love, I can be brave to face the pain of rejection or betrayal and be generous in forgiving others. A difficult task but that which God will enable me to do. “Lord, help me remember this.”

  3. 9. Read or listen to Lewis’ chapter on forgiveness and share something that stood out to you and why.


    The part in which Lewis describes how we can hate what a man does and not hate the man. He says that Christianity wants us to hate things like cruelty and treachery in the same way as we hate these things in ourselves: being sorry that a man (or we) has done these things and hoping, if possible, that he (we) can be cured and made human again. Lewis gives this test: if we should read about some horrible thing a person did in the paper, and then some other information was revealed that showed the story may not be true, or as bad, what is our reaction? Do we feel relief, as in thank you God they aren’t that bad, or do we feel disappointment and a determination to cling to the first story for the sheer pleasure of thinking your enemies as bad as possible? Lewis says that if your response is the second, then you are taking the first step in a process which, if you continue to follow, will turn you into a devil.

    I suppose that test would really show the unforgiveness in my own heart. It would be wanting to continue to believe that the person was as bad as I say they are and to actually be disappointed if they show any goodness or improvement. I can think of an example: if I find out that what I thought was a bad thing a person had done wasn’t really true, I immediately bring up a past example of the person being very bad and point to that because I want to continue to perpetuate how bad they really are.


    10. How does Lewis dispute the idea that loving your neighbor means feel fond of him or thinking of him as nice? Does this help you? Why or why not?


    Lewis explains that it is self-love that makes me think myself nice (not that thinking myself nice makes me love myself), and so loving my neighbor (or enemy) doesn’t mean I have to think they are nice. Lewis explains that forgiving a person doesn’t mean pretending that they are really not so bad, when it is plain that they are. In fact, we can hate or dislike things we see in ourselves, like greed or cowardice, and yet go on loving ourselves, which proves that we are able to separate the sin from the sinner.

    Yes, this is helpful to me because I often get confused on this: I think that I somehow have to sweep the bad things that others do under the rug (or the things about them that I dislike – for example, that they are often aggressive or hostile or mean) in order to forgive. Or, that the Bible says that love “believes all things” – so it’s this kind of hopeful attitude that they aren’t really all that bad and if I think they are, then it is sin in me making me think that about them.


    11. How did Lewis come to believe this was true: “hate the sin but not the man”?


    Lewis writes, “In my most clear-sighted moments not only do I not think myself a nice man, but I know that I am a very nasty one. I can look at some of the things I have done with horror and loathing. So apparently I am allowed to loathe and hate some of the things my enemies do.” He then remembered that Christian teachers had told him that he must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man. He used to wonder how exactly one can do this, until he realized that “there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life – namely myself.” This is his explanation of the teaching, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”


    12. Why does Lewis believe you can not hate someone but still punish him?


    He uses the example of if a Christian person committed a murder, he should turn himself in and be hanged. He would subject himself to the legal punishment of his actions. He writes, “for loving myself does not mean that I ought not to subject myself to punishment – even to death.”


    13. Lewis was not a pacifist. Why? Do you agree or not?


    Lewis differentiates between killing and murder, saying that Jesus uses the Greek word “to  murder” when quoting that commandment in the gospels. So, “Thou shalt not kill” refers to murder, not killing as a Christian in arms for the defense of his country or for a good cause. I think war is terrible, and certainly all the lives lost in all the wars in the history of the world. To have to kill is a terrible and sober thing, but sometimes you have no other choice, and for that, I agree with Lewis saying you don’t have to be ashamed of it. My dad has said that as a Marine in the Pacific in WWII, the Japanese would call to them in the black of night, saying, “Marine, tonight we going to come in your foxhole and kill you”, and yes, they did come, and yes, my dad had to fight hand-to-hand combat until either he, or the other, was dead. And he was only 18 years old. But he lived through the war. I would never say to my dad that he was wrong for doing that, because I don’t believe he had any other choice.


    14. Is there anything in this chapter that will help you to better forgive? If so, what?


    I think it’s just the whole thing of being able to face the facts about a person, who they really are, what they have done, and to “love them as I love myself”. I’m still processing this. I’ve gotten mixed up thinking that I have to somehow whitewash or believe that a person is different than what they’ve shown themselves to be; that if I know and believe them to be, say, untruthful, dishonest, manipulative, etc….I can know that about them, and still love and forgive them just as I would go on loving myself seeing the same things in myself. Forgiving doesn’t mean pretending those things aren’t there, and then feeling guilty and like I haven’t forgiven and am not loving them when I still see them as they really are. If this makes any sense!


    What is your take-away and why?


    There’s so much in these two chapters! The one on marriage: that being in-love is not a sustainable feeling that I can promise to always have, but ceasing to be in-love does not mean ceasing to love. And Lewis’ explanation of what it means, in part, to die to yourself. In the chapter on forgiveness, I have not found to date a better explanation of what Jesus meant by “loving your neighbor as yourself.” I never really understood what that meant, and I’ve heard teaching saying it means you would provide food, clothing, shelter, just as what you’d want for yourself, which can be part of it, but Lewis zeros in on how we can see our own bad qualities and yet we go on loving ourselves, and we hope that we can be forgiven and cured of our badness. I’m not sure I’ve yet really fully grasped it.