In reading Hitchman’s book on Sayers (see first post in this series) I pondered the contractions of people and our approach to those contradictions. I particularly pondered the way we approach contradictions in those we admire. Contradictions in those we admire tend to be excused or played-down; contradictions in those we don’t admire tend to be magnified without mitigation. Sometimes the contradictions are without excuse and unfathomable, sometimes they are plain sin, sometimes they are patently irresponsible; when they are in those we admire we tend to gloss over them or not mention them at all.
Is it because in those we admire that we think admission of contradiction, of irresponsibility, or of sin, will somehow lessen the person or the contribution of the person? Granted, there are times when a person’s walk reveals that his talk is a lie; and if that is the case it is best if we see it for what it is. But there are other times when a person’s walk is an affirmation that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and that we find forgiveness in Christ; this is not to excuse the problems with the walk, but perhaps it does provide us with a Biblical perspective.
Suppose the Apostle Peter were viewed by the Early Church through the lens of his denial of Christ and his hypocrisy at Antioch? Suppose his denial and his hypocrisy constituted a Scarlet Letter? Suppose when Peter showed up in a town to teach that people said, “Don’t bother to hear him, he denied Christ and later he denied his Gentile brothers at Antioch”? Certainly both were sin – oops, there’s that word s-i-n; yes, we all do it at last check.
Could it be that when we realize that we have no righteousness of our own and that Christ and Christ alone is our righteousness that we are more able to bear with one another’s faults, contradictions, and yes…even sin? Could it also be that when we insist on making those we admire and appreciate icons that our identification with the icons becomes such that any threat to them becomes a threat to us and our own sense of self-righteousness?
I am pondering these things because Dorothy L. Sayers wasn’t perfect – that’s a nice way of saying that she had contradictions – which in turn is a nice way of saying that she sinned; but you see, that’s the thing, I’ve sinned (and will again), you’ve likely sinned (charitable am I not?), and the next person you speak to will have sinned. While I don’t for one minute view the Christian’s identity as that of a sinner, for we are indeed saints, one of the reasons I’m looking forward to seeing the face of God is that I know the pollution of sin will be no more on that glorious Day.
C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams did things after they became Christians that are questionable, but they mostly did things I very much admire and benefit from; Dorothy L. Sayers’s relationship with her son (if it can be called a relationship) is something I do not understand nor can I begin to excuse it; but I have no doubt it was painful to her – though again on the face of it, based on my poor judgment, inexcusable. But it isn’t the contributions of Lewis and Williams and Sayers that I tend to view, it is who they were. Now Lewis and Sayers might not care for that statement, for they both thought that the writer and the writer’s work should be separate, but I’m not sure either was consistent on that point.
Are we so insecure in Christ’s forgiveness that we cannot look at another person’s life, including that person’s sin, without feeling threatened? Must we be judgmental out of self-righteousness, or must we defend the indefensible, in order to maintain a decorum of protective self-righteousness?
As I said, I’m pondering these things, realizing how all too often I fall short in my charity towards others and forgetting God’s mercies in my own life.