What can C.S. Lewis teach us about reconciliation?” asked my friend Dr. Claudia May, a professor of reconciliation studies.
Although I’ve studied Lewis’s writings for years, this wasn’t a question I’d ever considered. In an increasingly divided climate—politically, religiously, and otherwise—reconciliation is an unavoidable topic. As Christians, we are motivated to engage in the work of reconciliation because we pursue the reconciling One who still calls, “Follow me.” Christ’s work in our world makes reconciliation more timeless than timely (2 Cor 5:19).
As for C.S. Lewis, more than 50 years after his death, readers around the world still find him to be a helpful voice. Though I struggled to recall anything Lewis wrote directly on issues of reconciliation, his reflection in The Four Loves on the prophet Isaiah came to mind. Writing on friendship, Lewis points out that there are facets in his friends that he is unable to draw out by himself. He needs other friends, in their own God-given uniqueness, to do so. Lewis insists that we need those who are unlike us, so we can become the full picture of who God has created us to be.
In Isaiah 6, the prophet reports his vision of a number of six-winged seraphim gathered around the Lord’s throne, each one calling out to the others: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa 6:3 NRSV). In reflecting on this vision in The Four Loves, Lewis asks why this scene has several seraphim delivering this message of Yahweh’s holiness, not simply a single seraph. Lewis’s conclusion is that, on its own, a single seraph would be insufficient for reflecting and declaring the fullness of Yahweh’s holiness. A community is needed to do this work. “For every soul, seeing [God] in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest,” Lewis writes. “The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”1
As for the seraphim, so, too, for us. Reflecting and sharing the fullness of God’s glory is work we must do together, precisely through our differences. The diversity we find in God’s creation is neither an accident nor a consequence of the fall: It is for the sake of our God-given call to reflect God in God’s fullness. The whole universe together represents the eternal Triune God better than one creature alone ever can.
¹ Lewis, C. S., The Four Loves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1991), page 62.