Fair Play


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Bible Reading: Matthew 7:12

Do for others what you would like them to do for you.  Matthew 7:12

CLIVE STAPLES (C. S.) Lewis, a famous twentieth century British writer, wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. You may have read these books. They describe the adventures of Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, who discovered a magic wardrobe that took them to the land of Narnia. Lewis also authored a series of science fiction novels about a distant planet called Perelandra. Then he created a famous exchange of letters between two devils named Screwtape and Wormwood in his book The Screwtape Letters.

One of Lewis’s most influential books is Mere Christianity. In that book, he had a number of things to say about fair play. He wrote:

Everyone has heard people quarreling. Sometimes it sounds funny and some­times it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”-“That’s my seat, I was there first”-“Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm”-“Why should you shove in first?”-“Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine”-“Come on, you promised.” People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups.

Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behavior does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about…. It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed. And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word. Quarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are. . . .

It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may sometimes be mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a mere matter of taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1943, 1945, 1952), pp. 3-4, 6].

REFLECT: If C. S. Lewis attended your school, what phrases appealing to a sense of justice or fairness would he hear most often?

PRAY: “I like to be treated fairly, God. Help me to treat others that way this week.”


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