The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Caravaggio, 1599-1600
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

In The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair, Jill who is new to Narnia, has an intense experience with Aslan.  She is desperately thirsty and she wants to drink from the stream in the wood of Aslan’s Country.  The only problem is that Aslan the Lion sits between her and that stream.  Aslan bids her come and drink, but Jill wants things her way.  She asks Aslan to move.  He gives what seems like a low growl.  She asks if the Lion will promise not to do anything to her.  Aslan responds that he will make no such promises.  Jill asks if he eats little girls.  Aslan replies:

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms…  He didn’t say this as if he were boasting, nor as if he were sorry, nor as if he were angry.  He just said it.”

Jill responds that she “daren’t come and drink.”  Aslan responds, “Then you will die of thirst.”  

Jill did eventually drink from that stream and she found it was more than just ordinary water.  It was living water, but she could not have it on her terms.  It was on the Lion’s terms, or nothing. 

Today, our cultural religion is chalk full of compromises.  In fact, we live in the age of Moral Therapeutic Deism.  A perverted form of Christianity that caters itself to our needs and desires for our emotional wellbeing.  It is the religion of cosmic me-ism.  Where we are at the center of the universe and God’s job is to keep us happy there.  This is the false Christ that always affirms us, always meets our felt needs, and would never make any demands of us at all.  This false god lives to cater to our every whim and is always there to tell us that we, “are good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn people like us.”  But such false Christs would lead us straight to Hell flying first class, with priority boarding, and three inches of extra legroom.

The true, glorious and risen Christ is not like the idol.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  He is the Alpha and the Omega and He upholds the universe by the Word of His power.  It is He, the living God who says, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” 

There is no compromise with this standard.  The way to true life is by walking the march behind King Jesus carrying our cross to put to death our flesh, our me-monsters.  Dietrich Bonhoffer explains it far better than I can:

“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die. It may be a death like that of the first disciples who had to leave home and work to follow Him, or it may be a death like Luther’s, who had to leave the monastery and go out into the world. But it is the same death every time—death in Jesus Christ, the death of the old man at his call.”

This deep and important truth is one of the reasons we focus so much on our One Rule at Ambrose: Obey right away, all the way, cheerfully everyday.  It isn’t for mere compliance, getting the student to physically do what the teacher is asking them to do.  It is instead to catechize the student’s heart to obey Christ. Obedience leads to life and rebellion leads to death. We want our children to learn obedience of the simple things — lines, shirts tucked in, and classroom expectations, — so they can be ready for the bigger calls to obedience that will come from the Lord after they graduate.