Kill It!

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8: 34-36

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” John 5: 6

Last Sunday my daughter and I saw the theatrical production of C.S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce,” performed by the Fellowship for Performing Arts. Having read the book decades ago in college, I had been looking forward to seeing it performed on stage.

The premise for the storyline was that souls in hell were allowed to visit heaven, and if they chose to live there with God, they could stay. If it sounds too good to be true – it is. By the end of the visit the vast majority, for various reasons, expressed most adamantly that they did not, would not stay, and they boarded the bus to go back to their eternal home.

As usual, I was intrigued by C. S. Lewis’s imagination. I knew Lewis didn’t believe this was what hell was like, but it was a portrayal of a dream illustrating spiritual truths at play on earth.

Just as hell was depicted as a giant bureaucracy in The Screwtape Letters, hell in The Great Divorce did not fit the traditional description. Instead of endless flames and smoke and physical agony, hell in this production was a dreary, dimly lit place with perpetual conflict. Every time new people arrived, they couldn’t get along with their neighbors and would move farther out. Thus, hell was constantly expanding, with no meaningful human relationships.

The characters in the story were all different from one another, but I’m guessing you’ve met them.

Two of the travelers didn’t even board the bus. Instead, they got into a fist fight while standing in line and stormed off.

When the others arrived in heaven, a well-known artist found she couldn’t deal with the fact that in heaven she wouldn’t have the fame and status she’d had on earth. For her, the thought of being equal to everyone else there was unbearable, and she opted to go back.

A priest, who seemed to think himself intellectually superior to heaven’s humble Christ-followers with their simple faith, couldn’t handle the fact that he wasn’t allowed to come to God on his own terms, create his own version of Him, or depersonalize Him. He left in a huff, unable to let go of his ego.

A woman who had pined for her lost son since his death, was asking, begging, then demanding to see her boy. When she was told she needed to let go of him first, that God was to be first in her life, not her son, she dug in her heels and became increasingly hostile. She broke into a rant, accusing God of callousness and cruelty. It was explained to her that her son had been taken away because her obsession with him was not good for her, and she needed to trust God and put Him first. Doing so would have allowed her to reunite with her son without making him her god. Refusing to relinquish her idolatry, the self-righteous mother became more and more enraged, until she stormed out, declaring that she wanted nothing to do with the Lord. – She preferred a loving God!

Other mortals came and went, each rejecting the true God, each refusing to open their eyes to what they were missing and let go of their own notions of what God and heaven ought to be. Each stubbornly chose to turn down eternal life rather than come to God on His terms.

Finally, a man entered the scene with a red lizard on his shoulder. He impulsively petted it, talked to it, and listened to what it was whispering in his ear. An angel told him if he’ll turn over the lizard, he could stay in heaven. Reluctant, he kept holding onto the creature. Time and again he almost handed it over, but then it would whisper something to him, and he would shrink back from the angel and continue to dote on the creature. And when he learned that the angel wanted to kill it, horrified, he clung all the more tightly. He agonized, longing to stay in heaven, but seemingly unable to relinquish the “pet” he was enslaved to. The struggle grew in intensity, until finally, near hysteria, he gave it over to the angel, who threw it onto the ground, where with a little explosion it was reduced to a red blob on the floor. The man screamed in horror.

But then, something marvelous happened.

In its place there rose up another creature, a beautiful horse. The man then mounted it, and together they galloped up the mountain – “further up and further in,” as it’s described in The Chronicles of Narnia.

C. S. Lewis painted a clear picture of the powerful hold sin can have on us. Today we use a different word, but “addiction,” is just another word for slavery.

When we have sin, sin has us.

Many people struggle unsuccessfully for years with what the Bible calls “besetting sin.” No matter what kind of self-help methods they try, they remain enslaved to it. Mere “will power” is not powerful enough to set them free.

There’s only one way to break the power of sin, and that’s to love God more than the sin. Give it to Him and let Him kill it. If we have been attached to that sin, when it dies it may feel as if a part of us dies with it. But as Lewis described, in the place of that sin we surrender to Him, He will bless us with something infinitely better, something we can’t see now, because the sin – the counterfeit – has blinded us to what will give us true joy.

What’s your lizard?

Prayer: Lord, teach us to hate sin as much as You do. Help us to give it to You to be destroyed. Break our attachment to it. We want to be truly free. In Jesus’ name, amen.

43 thoughts on “Kill It!

    1. True, Jennifer. I couldn’t read that book too quickly. I would read one chapter, then have to stop and let it sink in… The year I discovered C. S. Lewis I read 14 of his books, including the seven Chronicles of Narnia. Such profound wisdom.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Annie, thank you for sharing this recap of the performance and summary of C.S. Lewis’s writing The Great Divorce. I like, “let him kill it.” I’ve often prayed for the Lord to silence the enemy. I’m going to change that prayer to, “kill it, LORD!”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. True, Ann. But even more, Jesus asked. “Di you want to be healed?”
        Some people don’t even long for healing bc the ailment they have suits them somehow, holds some secondary gain. (I could give examples but don’t want to comment too long)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, Lisa Beth. Jesus asked if he wanted to be healed, and notice he didn’t say “yes,” but gave reasons to feel sorry for him. Jesus healed him anyway, and he ended up tattling to the religious authorities. Next time Jesus saw him, He told him to stop sinning, or something worse would happen to him. (!)

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  2. Awesome, Annie! My favorite verse is “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not into your own understanding..” and a lot of that comes from CS Lewis who showed us that rather than God being mean, it’s possible you’re just not seeing the whole picture? I wouldn’t rationalize something like that with a human person, but God is perfect, Holy, just, therefore worthy of our trust in all things.

    I laughed at your description of CS Lewis’s hell as a, “dreary, dimly lit place with perpetual conflict and… no meaningful human relationships.” Yep, that is precisely how I refer to the 9th circuit of hell I happen to live in right now .It is not a metaphor, it is literally dreary, damp, dimly lit, with few meaningful human relationships. We actually call our behavior the “Seattle freeze.” We tend to blame it on the weather, but of course it isn’t the weather at all.

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  3. I have heard a church leader say that when people get to hell, they will be in anguish and say, “I should have trusted Christ!” While I think that will be true (at least initially) for some, I think for the vast majority, as C.S. Lewis points out so vividly and imaginatively, it will not. They will instead curse God–for all eternity.

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  4. Sounds like a fascinating book and production. Thanks for letting us in on what it’s about. I feel like a kid who did not read the assigned material and had a friend sum it up before class.
    I think we might have a couple of different lizards at times. It’s something I will have to ponder in the coming days.

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    1. I wasn’t much of a reader in school, Goldie. I was especially slow in reading things with a plot, because I couldn’t just read the story, I had to direct the movie in my mind. 🙄 But I binged on C. S. Lewis books the year I “discovered” his writings. And between my kids, students, and grandkids, I’ve read all seven “Chronicles of Narnia” out loud at least 5 times.

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  5. As a Christian counsellor, I don’t think we do ourselves any favours when we fail to see addictions as being a form of slavery to sin. The fact is, Jesus offers us freedom from slavery to sin – a wonderful promise which is absolutely true, and which offers us real hope. Unfortunately, replacing the word “slavery” with the word “addiction” can end up keeping us enslaved and stuck!

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  6. Enjoyed this Ann. C.S Lewis books are something that I have read and they really blew my mind. It would have been wonderful to see it enacted out.
    The man with the Lizard not wanting to let go – when sin has a hold on us we cling onto it, kill it Lord, kill it will be something I am going to be praying.

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      1. Mere Christianity and the Screwtape letters are my favourite. I had purchased a set of 7 of his books last year and I must say revisiting them has been good, although I do take forever to get through one of his books, they are not something I can blitz through. I like taking my time with them.
        Speaking of books, I am reading one now called ‘Christians in the age of outrage’ by Ed stetzer. A good book and definitely worth a read.

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  7. Annie, my favorite line was “There’s only one way to break the power of sin, and that is to love God more than the sin. Give the sin to God and let Him kill it.” I have got to remember that!
    Must read that book. Mere Christianity has always been a favorite of mine. I have to make myself slow down my reading speed. My mom taught me to read really well, but my mind doesn’t digest as fast as I can read, so, I have to take more time to “chew my food”.
    Same with reading my Bible.
    “What does a yellow light mean?” Jim Ignatowski



  8. Great review, Annie! And you conclude with a very critical question… for all of us. Each of us has a “red lizard” if some kind, sitting on our shoulder and whispering to us. The first step in killing it is naming it.


  9. I remember this book somehow better than other books by Lewis. Though I didn’t finished it. People’s rejection of God is scary and sad and ultimately they are rejecting God when all possibilities are considerd and counterfactual scenarios considered

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Another inspiring post, Ann. I, too, enjoy CS Lewis. By the way, I always have difficulty finding your latest post. For some reason, several older posts come up first. I then scroll down in an effort to locate a post I have not yet read. I don’t know whether other readers encounter this problem, as well. I’m sure though WordPress could help you correct it. The challenges technology poses can be enormously frustrating.


  11. I marvel at the way C. S. Lewis’s mind worked! He brought imagination and spiritual sense together in such creative, memorable ways. And all these decades later we still read and celebrate his works. I wonder how many saints are now with him in heaven as a result of his writings?!

    Liked by 1 person

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