This post is actually something I had written a few months ago as a note on facebook, but the other night I happened to reread it and thought it would be something interesting to share on here as well…
The other day I was in Barnes & Noble and I bought a book of various CS Lewis writings, most of which I didn’t already own. One of the first selections I read was entitled “The Psalms”. There was one train of thought that really stuck out to me when I read it, and again another night while I was sitting in church. Lewis starts talking about Psalm 109 from the Bible, where the writer of that Psalm wishes wholeheartedly that immense punishment and pain be brought about against those who had wronged him. A few things are pointed out by Lewis which, while good, I’ll not go into here. What I want to focus on is when, after acknowledging that wishing evil on anyone – even your enemies – is bad, this Psalm shows us “‘ This is what you make of a man by ill-treating him.’” This is a pretty common sense idea here, nothing too new or ground breaking. When people (or animals for that matter) are treated badly, they want to lash out at those who are hurting them. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter who they hurt, they just lash out. This doesn’t mean that it’s ok for them to do that, that it’s good or something to encourage. It just … is.Â That’s what happens.Â Lewis goes on to say:
“Now in a case of what we ordinarily call ‘seduction’ (that is, sexual seduction) we should think it monstrous to dwell on the guilt of the party who yielded to temptation and ignore that of the party who tempted. But every injury or oppression is equally a temptation, a temptation to hatred, and in that sense a seduction. Whenever we have wronged our fellow man, we have tempted him to be such a man as wrote Psalm 109. We may have repented of our wrong: we do not always know if he has repented of his hatred. How do accounts now stand between us if he has not? I do not now the answer to that question. But I am inclined to think that we had better look unflinchingly at the sort of work we have done; like puppies, we must have ‘our noses rubbed in it’. A man, now penitent, who has once seduced and abandoned a girl and then lost sight of her, had better not avert his eyes from the crude realities of the life she may now be living. …… Anyway, it is very wicked of them to hate us. Yes; but the folly consists in supposing that God sees the wickedness in them apart from the wickedness in us which provoked it. They sin by hatred because we tempted them. We have, in that sense, seduced, debauched them. They are, as it were, the mothers of this hatred: we are the fathers.”
When we have wronged someone, the first thing must always be to repent before God and seek the forgiveness of those we have wronged. God will forgive us no matter what, when we sincerely turn to him – and away from our sin – he will forgive us. Always. But we cannot walk away from our responsibility, just because we have been forgiven. Those we have wronged may not forgive us, that is not up to us though.Â We must, however, make every attempt to right the wrongs we have caused. When we cause others to sin, we are, in a sense, guilty of their sins as well. “the folly consists in supposing that God sees the wickedness in them apart from the wickedness in us which provoked it”
Before God we all will be held accountable individually for the deeds we have done.Â Regardless of how we are provoked, we still are responsible for our actions.Â But whether we sin, or push someone else into sin…we still sin.Â In Matthew 22:39 Jesus tells us the second greatest commandment is to “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” By pushing someone else to sin, or seducing them to as CS Lewis would say, breaks this commandment and is therefore a sin.
This doesn’t mean we always have to carry around guilt with us for the wrongs we have committed. If God has forgiven us, we are clean. But we still ought to feel responsible. We all know that our actions have consequences, but I think when the consequences fall on others, we sometimes forget the part we played in the matter.