This story from C.S.Lewis’ The Great Divorce is one of my favorites:
A mighty angel approached the man and asked, “Would you like me to make the lizard quiet?”
“Of course I would,” said the Ghost.
“Then I will kill him,” said the Angel, taking a step forward.
“Oh—ah—look out! You’re burning me. Keep away,” said the Ghost, retreating.
“Don’t you want him killed?”
“You didn’t say anything about killing him at first. I hardly meant to bother you with anything so drastic as that.”
“It’s the only way,” said the Angel …. “Shall I kill it?”
“Look! It’s gone to sleep of its own accord. I’m sure it’ll be all right now. Thanks ever so much.”
“May I kill it?”
“Honestly, I don’t think there’s the slightest necessity for that. I’m sure I shall be able to keep it in order now. Some other day, perhaps.”
“There is no other day ….”
“Get back! You’re burning me. How can I tell you to kill it? You’d kill me if you did.”
“It is not so.”
“Why, you’re hurting me now.”
“I never said I wouldn’t hurt you. I said it wouldn’t kill you.”
[Suddenly] the Lizard began chattering loudly: “Be careful,” it said. “He can do what he says. He can kill me. One fatal word from you and he will! Then you’ll be without me for ever and ever. I’ll be so good. I admit I’ve sometimes gone too far in the past, but I promise I won’t do it again ….”
“Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost.
“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.”
“Then I may?”
“Blast you! Go on can’t you? Get it over,” bellowed the Ghost: but ended, whimpering, “God help me. God help me.”
Next moment the Ghost gave a scream of agony such as I never heard. The Burning One closed his crimson grip on the reptile: twisted it, while it bit and writhed, and then flung it, broken backed, on the turf.
Then I saw, unmistakably solid but growing every moment solider, the Ghost materialize into a man, not much smaller than the Angel.
At the same moment something seemed to be happening to the Lizard. At first I thought the operation had failed. So far from dying, the creature was still struggling and even growing bigger as it struggled. And as it grew it changed. Suddenly I stared back, rubbing my eyes. What stood before me was the greatest stallion I have ever seen, silvery white but with mane and tail of gold.
The man, now free from his torment, climbed upon the stallion that had been his sin and rode into the glowing sunrise towards the Savior.
Three things I love about this:
1. Sanctification hurts.
Killing sin isn’t an easy undertaking. Sin convinces us it’s part of who we are; our identity. We make friends with it, and to put it to death is painful. I have so much in common with the ghost. I want my sin to be killed, but the minute sanctification starts to hurt I want to eject.
2. We have to kill even the silent sin.
Most of the time, I want to kill sin because it annoys me. If I can convince a sin to go back to sleep and stop causing me tension, there’s a part of me that’s satisfied. But God says there are only two options: live according to the flesh or wage war on it. There’s no in-between. If you’re not waging war, you are living according to the flesh.
3. Even sin will work for us in Christ.
I love that the lizard doesn’t just disappear at the end of this story, but becomes a stallion to take the man toward the Savior even faster.
Gosh, the Gospel is so much better than we would even dream. It’s not just that God will make it like sin never happened. He’s going to make all things – even our sin – work for our good. As we repent, we aren’t just brought back to God, we come closer to Him, knowing Him as father and Savior even more than we ever did before.