Forbidden Food

When you want to teach your kids the classic Christian message of sin and repentance, don't run to the bookstore for the latest Bible study guide for children. Instead, rummage among old children's books, and try C. S. Lewis's best-selling book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. You'll find that Lewis's fiction teaches the lesson of repentance far more effectively than most non-fiction treatments. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first volume in Lewis's famous Narnia series, featuring four British children during World War II who are magically transported to the world of Narnia. There they are given the heroic task of helping to undo a curse cast by an evil witch, keeping the land frozen in perpetual winter. Through the youngest boy, Edmund, Lewis portrays what happens when we give in to temptation—and then how we can be forgiven and restored. Soon after arriving in Narnia, Edmund is separated from the other children and approached by the White Witch. She offers him a magical candy that he finds addicting, and that puts him under her power. As ethics professor Vigen Guroian writes in his new book, Tending the Heart of Virtue, "This encounter with the White Witch and the taste of her forbidden food marks the start of [Edmund's] long, lonely journey into the darkness." Soon, his "temptation becomes an uncontrolled obsession and he is no longer able to enjoy good and legitimate pleasures." With deadly accuracy, Lewis has painted a picture of the way sin affects us. It doesn't announce itself as sin: It draws us in with something that seems pleasant and comforting, but which becomes addictive, blinding us to what is good and attracting us to evil. The story form makes these concepts come alive for young people: As Guroain writes, "Edmund's behavior is wholly believable and existentially compelling for young people. They can relate to the vortex-like inner force that swallows him up into his dark night and descent into a personal hell." As the story progresses, the charms of the magical candy eventually wear off, and Edmund begins to realize how cold and miserable he really is. The turning point comes when the boy is finally moved to compassion for someone besides himself. The selfish addiction is broken, and "Just as the snow that covers Narnia begins to melt," Guroian writes, "Edmund's heart turns back to goodness." Through the story, children "see that, while it is difficult, admitting one's mistakes and errors is the right thing to do and may lead to forgiveness and true happiness." So why not take The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and read it to your children for their bedtime reading. And after they've gone to sleep, take Vigen Guroian's Tending the Heart of Virtue and read it for yourself. It will help you understand how to use the power of imaginative literature to tend the hearts of your own children. Just as Jesus used parables to teach, so we can use stories to help our children understand the gospel and respond to the Savior.


Chuck Colson


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