Mar 24, 2022

Love the Ukrainian…and Your Neighbor


Yes, that’s what you look like when you’re on your phone đŸ˜‰

I recently began a book club with a few of the students. This was not my idea. Which made me, of course, really want to do it. I was even more enthused when we decided to begin with The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, one my favorite authors of all time. I am so encouraged by the maturity and hunger to grow in these students! Please pray for gospel fruit as we continue to read and discuss. And feel free to join us if you are otherwise indisposed on Wednesday mornings from 8:45-9:45.

This Wednesday, we came upon a particularly relevant insight from Lewis as he discussed the context of World War II at the time of his writing. If you are not familiar with the book, The Screwtape Letters is a set of fictional letters from a senior demon (Screwtape) to his newly active nephew, Wormwood. He proceeds to give advice on how to tempt and manipulate his “patient” (a Christian) and draw him away from “The Enemy” (God). It is a fascinating way to explore the devil’s tactics and ways he often leads us astray. Here we find him commenting on the patient’s malice toward the Germans, admitting that this is not as big of an advantage (to them) as it may seem…

Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary. There is no good at all in inflaming his hatred of Germans if, at the same time, a pernicious habit of charity is growing up between him and his mother, his employer, and the man he meets in the train. Think of your man as a series of concentric circles, his will being the innermost, his intellect coming next, and finally his fantasy. You can hardly hope, at once, to exclude from all the circles everything that smells of the Enemy: but you must keep on shoving all the virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy, and all the desirable qualities inward into the will. It is only in so far as they reach the will and are there embodied in habits that the virtues are really fatal to us.

Notice the principle in the second sentence. The devil will often push us to love people far away from us rather than those who are close, because otherwise that love becomes a reality. It’s all well and good to love people in theory, but this may actually serve to feed your pride, if it’s not combined with sacrificial actions for someone nearby.

One of the students noted that the war in Ukraine is the most publicized war in history. So, as we read the headlines every day, it is relatively easy to sympathize with and care for those who are hurting overseas. This should lead us to pray continually and give sacrificially in our wonderful, modern age that makes this possible, but if it turns our eyes away from our “mother,” “employer” and the man in the grocery store, then the devil is not too concerned. The students also noted that there is a tendency among their peers to overlay their profile picture and “stand with Ukraine”, while continuing to act ignorantly and selfishly toward those around them.

As Jesus’s church, let’s make sure that our acts of love begin and stay in the context of the “will.” That is, connected to what we actually do. Love is an action, after all. Let’s be careful not to fall into the lie that love is only a feeling, a burden or a superficial identification with someone else. The war in Ukraine, more than only drive us to prayer, should drive us to be more aware of the hurting all around us, and how we can show them genuine compassion.

I don’t know if that convicts you like it did me this week, but if you choose to join our book club, you can leave the tea and crumpets at home – we’re digging deep!