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TO MRS. JOHNSON: On the four kinds of love; on the various forms of charity; on pride as the pleasure of self-approval; and on self-forgetfulness.
18 February 1954
Of course taking in the poor illegitimate child is ‘charity’. Charity means love. It is called Agape in the New Testament to distinguish it from Eros (sexual love), Storgë (family affection) and Philia (friendship) [E.g., I John 4:9]. So there are 4 kinds of ‘love’, all good in their proper place, but Agape is the best because it is the kind God has for us and is good in all circumstances. (There are people I mustn’t feel Eros towards, and people I can’t feel Storge or Philia for; but I can practise Agape to God, Angels, Man and Beast, to the good and the bad, the old and the young, the far and the near.
You see Agape is all giving, not getting. Read what St. Paul says about it in First Corinthians Chap. 13. Then look at a picture of Charity (or Agape) in action in St. Luke, chap 10 v. 30–35. And then, better still, look at Matthew chap 25 v. 31–46: from which you see that Christ counts all that you do for this baby exactly as if you had done it for Him when He was a baby in the manger at Bethlehem: you are in a sense sharing in the things His mother did for Him. Giving money is only one way of showing charity: to give time and toil is far better and (for most of us) harder. And notice, though it is all giving—you needn’t expect any reward— how you do gets rewarded almost at once.
Yes, I know one doesn’t even want to be cured of one’s pride because it gives pleasure. But the pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch: but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch. As long as we have the itch of self-regard we shall want the pleasure of self-approval; but the happiest moments are those when we forget our precious selves and have neither, but have everything else (God, our fellow-humans, animals, the garden and the sky) instead.
Yes, I do believe people are still healed by miracles by faith: but of course whether this has happened in any one particular case, is not so easy to find out.
• From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis
• Compiled in Yours, Jack