The Normal Human Life

Fifty years ago this year, C.S. Lewis wrote in the Preface to Joy Davidman’s Smoke on the Mountain, “In a sense the converted Jew is the only normal human being in the world. To him, in the first instance, the promises were made, and he has availed himself of them. He calls Abraham his father by hereditary right as well as by divine courtesy. He has taken the whole syllabus in order, as it was set; eaten the dinner according to the menu.”
Lewis was nothing if not profound – even when he was wrong – and the profundity of his observation of the status of the Jewish believer in Jesus is something that appears to have been unread, forgotten, ignored or misunderstood. His observation that the Jewish believer in Jesus is “the only normal human being” is – I think – a gem of insight.

After the Fall, man spiralled downwards into an abnormal existence in which the image of God in him was disfigured and marred. When God brought Israel out of Egypt and gave them his Torah, he called them to live a life that should have been the norm, a life in which the divine character would be reflected in national, communal and individual life. Torah was not a set of arbitrary precepts devised to see how high Israel could jump.

The Torah called the Jewish people to live as God had originally intended man to live. The commandments reflect God’s eternal qualities of love and faithfulness. More than that, the law contained promises that pointed to the great Redeemer and Prophet who was to come. The normal Jew, therefore, was a Jew who believed the promises of God, and any Jew who fell short of the national calling could be “cut off” from his people. Little wonder then that the Saviour expressed impatience with his disciples at their lack of faith and with his fellow-travellers on the road to Emmaus for their reluctance to believe all that the prophets had spoken. The normal Jewish response to the Saviour, when he came, should have been to believe in him.

Lewis goes on to say that the Jew who doesn’t believe in Jesus “must appear as a Christian manqué; someone very carefully prepared for a certain destiny and then missing it”. I agree with Lewis. The Jewish people were destined to inherit infinitely more than just the land; God prepared a heavenly kingdom for them and it should be a normal thing to see the streets of the New Jerusalem populated by Abraham’s seed according to the flesh.

In my misspent youth, one of the underground papers I patronised featured a character in a pin-striped suit and bowler hat called Norman Normal. Poor Norman was dullness personified but God’s normality, by contrast, is glorious and dynamic. It is stirring to think that Christian mission exists to make people truly normal. If C.S. Lewis was right, the challenge to us in Jewish mission is not only to lead Jews to Jesus but also to disciple a people who will serve as a template for the whole of humanity, a people who fulfil their national calling by loving God with all their hearts and souls and minds.

Mike Moore

This article first appeared in the December 2005 edition of the Herald

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