What The Great Divorce Teaches Us About Greatness

What does it take to be great?

Ambition is all around us, and it’s nothing new. Published in 1945 C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce is just as relevant today.

The short novel imaginatively explores one man’s bus ride from hell to heaven, narrating his encounters with citizens from both places.

Our protagonist meets George McDonald himself who serves as a sort of tour guide and provides commentary on what our protagonist sees. When the narrator witnesses a woman with a great following, he marvels that she must have been someone very famous and great on Earth.

It is quite the opposite.

What It Takes to Be Famous

McDonald responds with, “Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.”

The woman was no one famous; rather she showed gospel kindness to those around her.

Lewis’s story acknowledges what we often value on Earth doesn’t hold much value in the life to come.

His words remind me of something my older sister once told me: “The desire to be great isn’t a bad thing. But ask the Lord what greatness looks like in His eyes.”

She’s right. Jesus doesn’t shy away from the topic of greatness.

But He doesn’t use the metrics we do.

He doesn’t talk about how many followers on social media you have.

He doesn’t talk about how big of a salary you can negotiate.

He doesn’t even talk about how many converts you’ve made.

What Jesus Says About Greatness

He speaks of service. He invites us into an upside-down kingdom, where being first means being last, where if we want to be great, we get to be the servant of all. He speaks of obeying Him and teaching others to do the same.

In his book Dealing with the Rejection and Praise of Man, Bob Sorge notes, “If we live by man’s praise, we will die by his rejection.” Getting the praise of man shouldn’t be our ambition.

The goal isn’t to get people to like us.

The goal isn’t to impress people.

The goal is to obey Jesus.

To hold out for His words of praise: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

To abide in His friendship.

To choose the better thing that will not be taken away.

Yes, fame is measured quite differently on Earth than in that country. I’m banking that that country is much better.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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