Saturday, May 26, 2012

Images of Faith and Discipleship in C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia (4)


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:  Guilt and Shame

Edmund, the younger boy in the Pevensie family, is the focal point of the drama in LLW.  He falls prey to the enchantment of the White Witch’s Turkish Delight upon his entry into the magical land of Narnia (see second post in this series).  He becomes enslaved to her and betrays his brother and sisters to her in her effort to prevent the prophesied two Sons and Daughters of Eve (the Pevensie children) from taking up their rightful rule in Narnia which will spell the end of her evil reign.

In the last post we took a look at Aslan’s atoning sacrifice of himself in Edmund’s place for his freedom.  After Edmund has been rescued by Aslan’s forces from the Witch, he and Edmund take a long walk together to talk over what has happened.  Neither his siblings nor Lewis’ readers are ever told what Aslan said to Edmund but subsequent events portray the change that has taken place in him.

On the occasion of Aslan’s meeting with the Witch to negotiate his taking Edmund’s place as a sacrifice for his betrayal, the Witch begins to berate and accuse Edmund.

“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.” (Lewis, C. S. (2008-10-29). The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia (p. 141). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)

Aslan’s forgiveness and acceptance of Edmund renders him impervious to the Witch’s continued accusations.  Aslan’s grace has refocused Edmund.  He is not centered on himself any longer.  Rather, “he just went on looking at Aslan.”  What a lovely way to picture grace’s deepest work in us!  This wrenching reorientation away from ourselves and to Christ can only be accomplished by him working in us.  We’ll see Lewis’ most dramatic way of picturing this when he get to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. 

This is really the key to dealing with accusations of guilt and the accompanying shame that often bother us.  You see, guilt and shame are either self-generated or generated by the Enemy, or some combination of the two.  If you’re feeling guilty or ashamed before God, it’s not coming from him!  So, if we can stay focused on him, we will be able to shed such accusations wherever they come from.  We, like Edmund can “just (go) on looking at Aslan” and it will no longer matter to us either “what the Witch said.”

This reorientation is not only key to our personal experience of grace and its consequent growth but is also central to our mission in the world.  In Revelation 12 we read:

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say,
“Now the salvation and power and kingdom of our God,
        and the authority of his Christ have come.
The accuser of our brothers and sisters,
        who accuses them day and night before our God,
        has been thrown down.
11 They gained the victory over him on account of the blood of the Lamb

        and the word of their witness.
Love for their own lives didn’t make them afraid to die.
12 Therefore, rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them.
But oh! The horror for the earth and sea!
        The devil has come down to you with great rage,
            for he knows that he only has a short time.”
The accuser (Satan) has been “thrown down” by Jesus’ death and resurrection (v.11a).  His people go out sharing this good news (v.11b) confident in that victory.  So confident, in fact, that the fear of death has been broken for and in them.  Refocused on Christ’s work, bearing fearless witness to his work, and not even being cowed by the threat of death, this people are able to participate in the victory Christ has won for them over the devil and his minions.
On both the personal and corporate levels, then, we see how those debilitating accusations have been taken care of by Jesus Christ.  And how by intentionally nurturing our grace-given capacity to “keep on looking” at our Aslan, we can grow as persons and as the people of God fruitfully and effectively engaged in the mission of the triune God.

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