Christians talk a lot about “glory.” And understandably so. The word appears in our Bibles over 300 times. We sing about it in songs. We hear about it in sermons. But what is glory? How many of us could offer a coherent and appealing definition of what we actually mean by the term?
Does glory simply mean fame and notoriety? Does it just mean the radiation of light? And are either of these something the Christian should even desire?
On June 8, 1941, in his sermon titled, The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis raised this very question. His answer is worth sharing:
I turn next to the idea of glory. There is no getting away from the fact that this idea is very prominent in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. Salvation is constantly associated with palms, crowns, white robes, thrones, and splendour like the sun and stars. All this makes no immediate appeal to me at ill, and in that respect I fancy I am a typical modern.
Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?
When I began to look into this matter I was shocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation” by God.
And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards.
I suddenly remembered that no one can enter heaven except as a child; and nothing is so obvious in a child—not in a conceited child, but in a good child—as its great and undisguised pleasure in being praised. Not only in a child, either, but even in a dog or a horse.C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory,” preached at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford on June 8, 1941. Published in C.S. Lewis Essay Collection: Faith, Christianity and the Church, October 7, 2010.