‘Shon’jir’ and Becoming New

In Kesrith, the first book of the Faded Sun trilogy by C.J. Cherryh, we’re introduced to a universe crawling out of a long war. The humans have won and are moving to claim new territory from the fat, slob-like regul, who employed an ancient race known as the mri. That last group is bitter about the war’s end; bitter against humans who fought “dishonorably” in groups instead of man-to-man combat, and bitter against regul after realizing how they were taken advantage of by their employers.

During the events of Book 1, (spoilers ahead!) the mri are nearly annihilated save for the only two known survivors: Niun, a warrior, and his sister Melein, a priestess and new ruler of the people. Sten Duncan, a human who fought in the war, falls in with them by accident and they let him live as their prisoner. By the novel’s end, however, the roles are reversed as the mri become captive to the humans.

The second book, Shon’jir, opens with Sten doing his best to help the mri regain their culture. When it seems that a tape record shows the home base of the mri world, Sten’s supervisor allows him to take them there. In the course of the journey, Duncan relinquishes control to Melein and agrees to become a mri under Niun’s tutelage.

While there is much about mri culture to disagree with, Duncan’s transformation–or conversion, if you will–from human soldier to mri pupil is interesting to read and reminded me at some points of becoming a “new creation” as a Christian. Niun works hard to tear Duncan away from his past life, getting him to think like a mri and not like a human. Through much of this gruelling experience, Sten wavers back and forth about his commitment.

Becoming new as a Christian is also difficult work. While we are ushered into this newness at conversion, the process of sanctification (or being made holy) often feels like an uphill climb. There are pieces of our old sinful nature that need to be expunged. As C.S. Lewis remarks in Mere Christianity, God wants the “whole tree”, roots and all, not just a branch here and there. From a Christian’s perspective, though, this isn’t losing our humanity. Rather, it’s gaining it back to become the type of creatures God intended us to be.

The Christian life looks simple in principle but harder in practice. Much like Sten Duncan, who needed a reordering of his life in heart, mind, and deed, we, too, need a “renewal of our minds” when we declare allegiance to Christ.

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