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Know God’s Everlasting Mercy & Kindness as You Walk In Righteousness

Craig L. Ghislin, C.S., Glen Ellyn (Bartlett), IL
Posted Monday, April 28th, 2014

Know God’s Everlasting Mercy & Kindness as You Walk In Righteousness
Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“Everlasting Punishment

April 28—May 4, 2014

By Craig L. Ghislin, C.S.
Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Bartlett) 
craig.ghislincs@icloud.com / (630) 830-8683

All of us have been punished at one time or another. Usually these punishments are for our own good.  We can look back on them and find valuable lessons.  When we’re in the midst of the reprimand, we can feel pretty bad, and sometimes it can seem like things will take a long time—if ever—to get right again.

The Golden Text by itself is a very hopeful sentiment, but in context, we find the children of Israel had been exiled, punished for their sins.  It seemed to them as if God, for a moment, had turned His back on them, but now God promises the relationship will be permanently restored, not unlike God’s promise to Noah that such a cataclysmic event as the flood would not happen again, and that God would always be with us.  Adversity may seem daunting at the moment, but the prophet is encouraging us not to be discouraged.  Even in the midst of seemingly frightful darkness, God’s face still smiles on us.

The Responsive Reading continues this idea depicting God as good, ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy to those who call on Him.  The psalmist knows that when he calls, God will answer.  He yearns to walk with God and not stray from the true path, but trusts that God will help him if he does.  In fact, the psalmist is pretty sure that he will make mistakes, and because he understands that God is benevolent, he knows that he can go to God when he gets into trouble.

If you got into deep trouble, would you go to someone who would blame you, and yell at you, and make you feel worthless?  Probably not.  You’d go to someone you know would help you, guide you, correct you if needed, and encourage you in your struggles.  When I’m in trouble, I go to God.  I’m reminded of our Leader’s words, “I will listen for Thy voice, lest my footsteps stray...” (Feed My Sheep, Hymn 304).  Historically, Lessons on this week’s subject, Everlasting Punishment, always focus on God’s loving nature rather than the old-fashioned view of God as a lightning-bolt-hurling magistrate.  Kindness and mercy stand out this week.  According to Strong, the Hebrew words translated as “kindness,” and “mercy,” are very similar, and could be translated either way; both definitions include the ideas of compassion, devotion, grace, favor, and unchanging love.

Kindness, as defined in The Student’s Reference Dictionary, means: “Good will; benevolence; that temper or disposition which delights in contributing to the happiness of others, which is exercised cheerfully in gratifying their wishes, supplying their wants, or alleviating their distresses...”  Mercy is defined as: “That benevolence, mildness, or tenderness of heart which disposes a person to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves, the disposition that tempers justice, and induces an injured person to forgive trespasses and injuries, and to forbear punishment, or inflict less than law or justice will warrant.”  While this definition is ample, it continues, “In this sense, there is perhaps no word in our language precisely synonymous with mercy.  That which comes nearest to it is grace.  It implies benevolence, tenderness, mildness, pity or compassion, and clemency, but exercised only toward offenders.  Mercy is a distinguishing attribute of the Supreme Being.”

We all have to admit that much of the world’s ills of which we suffer and complain are due to a lack of kindness and mercy.  Much of the justification people have for vengeance is based on a false sense of God and divine justice.  Our Leader writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Whosoever believeth that wrath is righteous or that divinity is appeased by human suffering, does not understand God” (S&H 22:27).  This Lesson will give us a better understanding of God and His merciful kindness.

Section 1: “…Evil Is No Part of the Divine Knowledge(Unity of Good 4:21)
The most glaring mistake people make about God is to think that he knows evil.  Somehow they imagine that God sees everything they’re doing—good and bad—and is keeping track of it all, punishing and rewarding accordingly, and ultimately deciding if they’re deserving of heaven or hell.  On page 1 of her book Unity of Good, Mary Baker Eddy cautions her students to avoid the question of whether or not God knows evil until they get a better understanding of God.  Yet twice a year with this week’s subject, and several times in between, our Lesson-Sermons directly address this issue.

Before getting into the meat of the Lesson, consider the following passage from Unity of Good.  It sets the table for us, and succinctly explains these important points.

The sinner has no refuge from sin, except in God, who is his salvation.  We must, however, realize God’s presence, power, and love, in order to be saved from sin.  This realization takes away man’s fondness for sin and his pleasure in it; and lastly, it removes the pain which accrues to him from it.  Then follows this, as the finale in Science: The sinner loses his sense of sin, and gains a higher sense of God, in whom there is no sin. (Un. 2:6).

The Scriptures plainly declare that God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (B1).  As theologian Albert Barnes puts it, “Light cannot co-exist with darkness, fire with water, heat with cold, deformity with beauty, foulness with sweetness, nor is sin compatible with the Presence of God... There is an entire contradiction between God and unholiness.”  God is stable and constant like a rock and “His work is perfect” (B2).  God isn’t watching us to catch us in a mistake, or out to get us.  That’s a totally human viewpoint.  God is divine.  He is good, and his “mercy is everlasting” (B3).  Even though it seems that we suffer, God will not cast us off.  God is always on the side of righteousness and those who know that will follow Him (B4).  Jeremiah reminds us (B5) that even though the Jews in exile went a very long time without any recognizable proofs of God’s care and deplored their condition; God had always loved them and would lead them out of captivity.

Mary Baker Eddy looked at the topic logically: “‘God is Love.’  More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go” (S1).  It makes no sense at all, and is contrary to logic to have a loving creator make man capable of doing wrong, expect that he would do it, and then punish him for it (S2).  Sin and evil simply cannot come from a good and loving God.  The attributes of God mentioned by Mrs. Eddy (S3) coincide with the definitions of kindness and mercy mentioned earlier.  If God made us capable of sin, then we can’t avoid sinning and it is neither fair, nor Godlike, to punish what cannot be avoided.  Neither did God allow us to be sinners in order to “test us” as many theologies believe.  God is not “the author of experimental sins” (S4).

So if God didn’t set us up for punishment, what does this mean?  It means we aren’t hard-wired to be sinners, and we don’t have to succumb to sin.  We have the God-given right to reject any sin that presents itself (S5).  If we think we have no chance or power to overcome sin, we’re missing the boat, and we could end up feeling alone and alienated in a world of evil.  But that’s a misunderstanding.  Reasoning spiritually, we can trust God’s omnipotence and be confident that God’s will for us is always good.

Section 2: It’s the Thought That Counts
So, if God doesn’t set us up to sin, and He is Love itself—merciful and kind, not wrathful—does sin go unpunished?  Nope.  Sinning is turning away from God, and while God is omnipotent good, indulging in sin, or believing we are separated from God, brings unhappy results, that can feel very much like punishment.  But it’s not God who punishes: sin brings its own punishment.  We reap what we sow (B6).  If we sow to the flesh, we’ll reap corruption.  The Expositor’s Greek Testament comments on Galatians 6:7: “Every action produces an effect on the character of the actor corresponding as exactly to its motive as the fruit to the seed. If it springs from selfish desire, it stimulates the growth of evil lusts, and issues in a harvest of inward corruption.”

This warning is something King David might have considered before deciding to make a move on Bath-sheba (B7).  He could have suppressed his desire for her, but instead he pursued her.  Since he’d never seen her before, it’s pretty clear that his motive was lust.  Christ Jesus cautioned against lustful pursuits, and took his warning one step further.  He said even entertaining the thought of sensual desire was tantamount to actually indulging in the act itself (B8).  This might sound extreme to some, but we, as Christian Scientists, should understand more than others how important it is to keep a close eye on our thinking.  To those who may bristle at the strict implications of Jesus’ instruction, theologian Adam Clarke seems at first to empathize: “If voluntary and deliberate looks and desires make adulterers and adulteresses, how many persons are there whose whole life is one continuous crime!”  But then he brings the point home: “Many would abhor to commit one external act before the eyes of men, in a temple of stone; and yet they are not afraid to commit a multitude of such acts in the temple of their hearts, and in the sight of God!”

Mary Baker Eddy underscores Jesus’ declaration pointing out the importance of “the action of the human mind” (S6).  It seems that sometimes Christian Scientists give the impression that they can’t be sinners because, after all, sin is unreal.  But Mrs. Eddy didn’t evade the issue and in fact, made a point of teaching us that sinning does bring punishment (S7).  She teaches that sin brings its own suffering and this suffering is the means of destroying sin (S8).  If one indulges in sin, there is no way to avoid suffering.  The textbook says, “Every supposed pleasure in sin will furnish more than its equivalent of pain, until belief in material life and sin is destroyed.”  The only way to escape the repercussions of sin is to stop sinning (S9).

As Jesus did, Mrs. Eddy warns us to pay special attention to what we’re thinking.  She cautions us about “thoughts ever recurring to one’s self” concerning the body, and the expectation of bodily pleasures and pains.  Looking to the body for pleasure or happiness brings the opposite (S10).  The remedy is to “look away from the body into Truth and Love.”  In exact proportion as we look away from the body toward spiritual views, we will bring them into our experience.

Some might feel that the fact that punishment for sin can’t be avoided means that God isn’t as merciful as we say He is.  But our Leader explains that divine mercy pardons error by destroying it (S11).  Despite what the media tries to tell us, we’re not mortal sinners, we’re spiritual ideas.  As we understand this, we willingly let go of sensuality and strive to be more spiritual.  But we’re warned that the deeper we get into error, the harder it will be to get out, so let’s do our best to avoid error in the first place by watching our thoughts carefully.  It may be a challenge, but it’s well worth the effort.

Section 3: We’ve Got to Repent
Sometimes it takes a little doing to convince us we’re sinning.  Most people, before they sin don’t start out by thinking, “How can I break God’s law today?”  No, they usually think they’re doing something good for themselves and think little beyond the gratification of the moment.  They allow their emotion to override their intelligence.  But that gets people into trouble.  David needed to be convinced that he’d made a mistake so Nathan told him a story in which the protagonist was surely at fault (B9).  David clearly saw that the man in the story had done wrong and was angry over it, and then Nathan showed David that he had done the same thing.  David rightly felt awful and according to tradition, penned a beautiful psalm of repentance (B10).  The key here is that he accepts responsibility for his sin and deeply desires to be made pure again.  He wants to start over with a clean slate and get back on course with God.

If anyone has ever done something really wrong, they know the truth of David’s heart-felt yearning. Isaiah promises that those who repent will find peace and mercy (B11).  If you’re in this situation now, or if you have an old sin from the past still trying to drag you down, let your weary heart embrace the spirit of David’s plea.  If you’re honest and sincere, you will find peace.

Sincerity is the key.  Our textbook tells us that being sorry is easy, but reforming proves our sincerity (S12).  Admittedly it can be hard to reform from something you think is capable of giving you happiness.  However, it is clear, that the happiness of sin is fleeting and sin brings sorrow and guilt afterward.  The more we sin the worse it gets—an endless downward spiral.  Reform really begins when we see that in reality, there is no pleasure in sin in the first place (S13).  Actively seeking and loving good will displace the false appetites.  For Christian Scientists this is a direct command.  We must reverse all the errors of sensuality and replace them with spiritual truths.  Mrs. Eddy doesn’t mince words here—she tells us to “choke these errors” quickly if we don’t want them to get worse (S14).  It’s a known tactic of warfare—if you want to win, you have to crush the enemy utterly and exploit victory, or the enemy will come back to get you another day.  We defeat error by exposing its false methods and lies (S15).  That’s another tactic of war.  The victor can see through the enemy’s misdirection and deception.  So we see through the lie and aren’t fooled by it.

None of this can do us harm.  It’s a tenet of our church that God forgives sin by destroying it, but we will suffer as long as we continue to sin (S16).  The suffering that turns us from sin is a good thing.  It helps us to move towards “Righteousness, peace, and purity” (S17).

Section 4: Casting Out Evil and Fear Brings Healing
Sometimes, when struggling with an illness we feel completely wrung out like a drooping plant.  That’s what the psalmist is feeling in citation B12.  In the next citation the author feels his woes compounded by the added weight of his iniquities preventing him from seeing himself clearly (B13).  Not always, but there are times where our physical woes are exacerbated by some sinful belief that prevents us from seeing our way to the truth.  Such might have been the case with the palsied man in Matthew (B15).  Jesus must have detected something in the man’s thought and compassionately met the fear by assuring the man that his sins were forgiven.  Of course there is resistance from the religious establishment who would often rather see a man suffer for his sins than be healed, but Jesus met the opposition with dominion and healed the man of both sin and sickness.  Note that Jesus doesn’t uncover the opposition in the scribes’ thought in order to give in to it and allow it to stop him from healing. The same perception that gave him the authority to uncover and forgive the man’s sins, also allowed him to uncover the resistant thought of the scribes; and he healed the man in spite of their opposition.  Sometimes in our prayers we feel like there is resistance to healing from either generic or specific sources.  Rather than [giving credibility to] the opposition by seeing it as a reason for delayed healing, we should follow Jesus’ example by exposing the resistance [as powerless] and by healing anyway.  [I love the certainty Mrs. Eddy saw in the Christian healing power of “prayer… fervently offered” with “no opposing element” (Miscellany 293:21.]

This same healing Christ works through Christian Science today and heals both sinful and diseased beliefs (S18).  Religiously minded people are somewhat open to the possibility of healing moral issues through spiritual means, but they are not so quick to accept the healing of disease.  In Christian Science both sin and sickness are illusions; and while the sin is considered a voluntary evil, sickness is involuntary.  The operation of divine Principle can overcome sickness as well as sin just as light destroys darkness (S19).

It’s interesting that Mrs. Eddy acknowledges the need for sin to be healed when curing a bodily ailment (S20).  She writes that casting out fear and evil, or sin, enables the truth to be realized and thus bring healing. There are times that those who are suffering feel that they are being punished for something they’ve done wrong, or for something amiss in their thinking, as well as times when a person feels he or she has prayed about everything else they could think of and don’t know what to do next.  In such cases, allowing the Christ to purify and cleanse one’s heart, and making a sincere effort to be more spiritual can help lift us out of suffering.  Casting out fear is important too.  But, the fear may not always be obvious.  Sometimes we aren’t so much afraid we’ve broken a moral law, as we are of breaking a law of material hygiene or some other false law.  Uncovering everything that needs healing including resistant thought is what Jesus did in the case of the man with the palsy (B15).  Understanding that God is the only Mind helps us let go of every error, and once we see our truly spiritual nature, there’s nothing left but perfection (S21).

This process of recognizing God as the only Mind and therefore, ruling out sickness and sin is not the same as begging God for pardon and mercy.  It’s taking responsibility for our thinking, reforming, and applying the higher law of divine Principle to our situation (S22).  Then we find ourselves enriched and healed morally and physically.

Section 5: How Do We Practice Mercy and Kindness?
So the prospect of God being merciful and kind makes us feel better about our own need for forgiveness, but how good are we at practicing mercy and kindness?  Paul urged the Philippians to have the mind “which was also in Christ Jesus” (B16).  In other words, we should do our best to think and therefore act like he did.

What did Jesus teach about mercy and kindness?  Besides the beatitude promising that the merciful shall obtain mercy, one of his lessons on this topic was brought home to Peter (B17).  Peter asks his Master how many times we should forgive offenders.  He probably thought he was being generous by suggesting seven times, since it was customary to forgive three times.  But Jesus basically tells him we should forgive every time.  Then Jesus tells a parable about how the kingdom of heaven is like a king reckoning with his servants.  A man is brought to the king who owed the king 10,000 talents.  That’s roughly the equivalent of 60,000,000 days wages or 191,000 years worth of payment—obviously more than could ever be paid.  Not being able to pay, the king orders the man and his family to be sold, but the man pleads for patience.  The king is merciful and forgives the entire debt.  Yet this same man goes and finds someone who owes him a hundred pence or the equivalent of about 100 days wages. The man nearly throttles the person who owes him, and tosses him into prison.  The king is told about this inequity and the man ends up in prison liable for his original debt.

The point of this story is that there are times when we owe more than we are able to pay—not just in money but in many ways to people, and we certainly owe much more to God.  We can’t ever return that amount, but if we want God to be merciful to us, we should still be just as merciful to those who owe us. If we expect mercy from others, we should be merciful to them (B18).  We will receive the same treatment we dish out.

Science and Health reminds us that we need to follow all of Jesus’ instructions (S23).  Doing so will help us in healing others and in overcoming sin in ourselves.  We have to be honest with ourselves.  We can’t demand from others what we are not willing to give.  Neither can we give ourselves a pat on the back if we talk a good game, but don’t live what we preach (S24).  Even if we are forgiven by men for wrongs we’ve done, we aren’t really forgiven by God until reformed through divine Love (S25).  The Sixth Tenet of our church is to promise to watch and pray to have the Mind of Christ, to follow the golden rule, and to be “merciful, just, and pure” (S26).  That’s easier said than done, but if each of us actually stayed true to that promise [in our home, church, work and camp communities, there] we would have a foretaste of heaven.

Section 6: Join the March toward Righteousness Now
To human sense, too much mercy is a departure from justice, and it’s very difficult to find a proper balance.  It’s hard to imagine why tyrants and hardened criminals deserve any mercy at all.  But with God, righteousness is balanced and fair, bringing peace to every situation (B19).  As Christians, we are joining with, and working along with God’s work.  There’s no need to wait around hoping for a future time when justice and mercy agree.  The carnal mind can’t comprehend divine mercy.  We have to take advantage of the present opportunity (B20) and begin to practice living rightly right now.  James Nisbet’s Church Pulpit Commentary quotes this passage from the Reverend C. Rhodes Hall: “If we do not seek to go forward, we shall go backward.  There is no such thing as standing still in Christian life.  It is a race to be run—a race that can only be won by training and exercise... Since ‘sin entered into the world’ the religious life is a constant struggle with opposing forces.  We must breast the stream with the tide against us...”  Are you taking up this holy cause?  “The ransomed of the Lord” are joyfully returning to Zion walking the highway of holiness (B21).  They are on the move getting closer each day to fulfilling their roles as God’s people, redeemed and purified.  Sing unto God, thanking Him for deliverance, forgiveness, and salvation from sin, disease, and death (B22).  Are we on that highway?  Are we getting closer to God purifying our lives daily?  Are we willing to invite others to come along?

Every step we take out of sin and towards goodness brings us more in line with God (S27).  We can certainly expect that we will reach our destination and that we can begin by being grateful for every individual victory.  The final victory will definitely be worth singing about, because there will be no more sin left—no accuser, no accused, none guilty.  Our Leader reassures us that there’s no reason to delay this victory—”Now is the accepted time” (S29).  Our salvation from sin, disease, and death is a great thing to achieve, so why would we want to hang on to the things that pull us away from God?  We wouldn’t.  We should be glad to let go of the old earth-weights and accept God’s mercy and kindness, turning to Him with our whole being, asking for a clean heart (S30).  Our God is merciful and kind, and our path is clear.  What are we waiting for?


[The Met application ideas above are provided primarily to help CedarS campers and staff (as well as friends) see and daily demonstrate the great value of studying and applying the Christian Science Bible lessons throughout the year, not just at camp!  YOU CAN ALSO SIGN UP for weekly emails from past CedarS staff of possible ways to share Bible Lesson applications with older, as well as younger, Sunday School classes by clicking the "Subscribe Now" button (lower left) at http://www.cedarscamps.org/metaphysical/ ]

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[Additional Director's Note: You can sign up to have these application ideas emailed to you free – by Monday each week in English; or by each Wednesday you can get a FREE TRANSLATION: in German, thanks to Manfred and Jeanette; or in Spanish, thanks to a team of Ana, Erick, Claudia and Patricio, or in Portuguese, thanks to helpers of Orlando Trentini in Brazil.  A voluntary French translation by Rodger Glokpor, a Christian Scientist from Togo (West Africa) has been contributed.  Thank you, Rodger and all translators! Go to http://www.cedarscamps.org/ and click "Newsletters" to sign-up for a free translation into these languages.  This sharing is the latest in an ongoing, 13-year series of CedarS Bible Lesson "Mets" (Metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians.  (Ask and look for "Possible Sunday School Topics "and "Possible Younger Class Lessons" in emails to follow.) These weekly offerings are intended to encourage further study and application of ideas in the lesson and to invigorate Sunday School participation by students and by the budding teachers on our staff. Originally sent JUST to my Sunday School students and to campers, staff and CedarS families who wanted to continue at home and in their home Sunday Schools the same type of focused Lesson study, application and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson "Mets "and Sunday School ideas are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way serve as a substitute for daily study of the lesson. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension and background as well as new angles (and angels) on the daily applicability of some of the ideas and passages being studied. The weekly Bible Lessons are copyrighted by the Christian Science Publishing Society and are printed in the Christian Science Quarterly and in a variety of useful formats as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms or online at eBibleLesson.com or myBibleLesson.com. The citations referenced (i.e.B-1 and S-28) from this week's Bible Lesson in the "Met" (Metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the Bible (B-1 thru B-26) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy (S-1 thru S-32). The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist.  The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. The Lesson-Sermon speaks individually through the Christ to everyone, providing unique insights and tailor-made applications for each one.  We are glad you requested this metaphysical sharing and hope that you find some of the ideas helpful in your daily spiritual journey, in your deeper digging in the books and in closer bonding with your Comforter and Pastor.]

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