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Everlasting Grace and Mercy

Christie Hanzlik, C.S., Boulder, CO
Posted Monday, October 26th, 2020

Everlasting Grace and Mercy
Metaphysical Application Ideas for The Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“Everlasting Punishment”
For November 1, 2020

by Christie C. Hanzlik, C.S., Boulder, CO
• ccern@mac.com • 720-331-9356 • christiecs.com

[CLICK AUDIO LINK to hear Christie read her Metaphysical Applicaction ideas, "Everlasting Grace and Mercy!" The text version with references is below & online.]

INTRODUCTION

“Everlasting Punishment” is one of the CS Bible Lessons that is difficult to post on a sign out front our churches without also offering the public a bit of context. Historically, the phrase “everlasting punishment” seemed to occupy a lot of thought, and when Mary Baker Eddy decided upon this topic, it was aimed to address the concern. Today, we don’t hear that phrase as often. In today’s world though, perhaps the related concepts of guilt, inadequacy, worthlessness, hopelessness, poverty, displacement, disenfranchisement, apathy, worry, anxiety, depression, and so on, have taken its place. Those are some heavy words. And they are all related to “sin”—the belief that we are separate from God, good, and need to make amends and jump through some metaphorical hoops before we are lovable. Well, this lesson addresses “sin” and offers a healing treatment to address that laundry list of “boogey” words.

We each need to have crisp definitions for metaphysical terms so that we can apply them properly. I can offer the definitions that are most helpful for me (like I did for “sin”), and I strongly encourage you to have definitions of your own clearly in thought as you read the Bible Lesson this week. Here are the terms that I found most helpful to define for this week:

Mercy: When someone/something powerful is tender and gentle

Sin: The belief that we are separate from God, good, or an action that seems to make us feel separate from God, good

Grace: Feeling loved even when don’t think we deserve it; loving those who feel unlovable

GOLDEN TEXT AND RESPONSIVE READING

Right from the beginning, the “Golden Text” of the Lesson introduces the idea that as we are merciful (tender to others), we receive mercy (tenderness). (Matthew 5:7) For me, this is a promise that as we look on others with love and tenderness—even when or especially when they seem not to deserve it—we feel the tenderness from God, good.

The Responsive Reading complements the Golden Text, and challenges us to not judge or condemn, but rather to leave correction, restoration, and reformation to divine Love.

Those of us in the United States are in the final week before our state and national elections. It seems like there is a bitter divide and a temptation for lots of hostility. It also seems as though—perhaps more than usual—people are condemning those who don’t agree with their views. We could pray about this by applying the message in the Responsive Reading’s to politics (or any type of personal opinions). Romans tells us to “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10). If we each evaluate what we say to others and what we think about others with this simple statement from Romans, we receive the promise to “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Note: Articles you may find helpful in praying about elections are “God’s Elect” by Julia M. Johnston, From the July 1933 issue of The Christian Science Journal. (available as audio) And, “Vote for Harmony!” By Elizabeth Schaefer, from the March 17, 2008 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

SECTION 1: GOD, GOOD, IS MERCIFUL

When we think of mercy as when someone/something powerful is tender and gentle, then it’s clear that there is no more powerful mercy than the mercy from God, good. Powerful mercy may seem like an oxymoron until we realize the strength that comes from pure mercy. Pure mercy comes from omnipotent Love, and has the power to transform, redeem, and heal absolutely.

Divine Love is so pure that Love cannot see iniquity. (citation B2, Habakkuk 1:12 (to ?), 13 (to :)) Far from being ignorant or naive, this function of divine Love is pure mercy and is the light that eradicates darkness, and bathes sinners (those who believe they are separate from God) in the goodness of God until they finally understand how much they are loved, and let go entirely of sin (the belief that they are forsaken). Divine Love is our redemption (releasing the belief of sin). Through the mercy of God, the sinner is made to understand the fact that “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (cit. B5 I John 4:16)

In the correlating ideas from Science and Health, we see again the phrase from 1 John, “God is Love.” And read that the attributes of Love are “justice, mercy, wisdom, goodness, and so on.” (cits. S1, S2) Mercy—tenderness from those more powerful—is an attribute and function of divine Love.

Divine Love wouldn’t tempt us to do or think negatively just to punish us for it (cit. S3, S4 I 539:10, 356:25). Such cruelty would be the opposite of being merciful. We could extend this logic…since we are made in the image and likeness of divine Love, it is not in our nature to be cruel to ourselves with self-condemning thoughts in which we continually berate ourselves or others. Negative inner chatter is against our very nature as the children of good. By letting go of the belief of separation from good, we see through that which would seem to “becloud the spiritual sense of Truth.” As we do this, we find our liberty as the sons and daughters of God. (cit. S6 I 315:16)

SECTION 2: TRUE JUDGMENT MEANS TURNING THINGS OVER TO DIVINE LOVE TO CORRECT AND GOVERN

While we don’t want to judge erroneously, or harshly, we can “Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another.” (cit. B6, Zechariah 7:9) As I understand Zechariah, he was a prophet trying to convince the Hebrews to be less retributive and more restorative, to let go of resentment and revenge, which are backward looking, so that they could move forward with a sense of mercy and kindness. Later, Christ Jesus says he did not come to destroy the law or the former prophets, but came to fulfil the law. (cit. B9, Matthew 5:17, 21, 22 ) Specifically, Christ Jesus came to fulfil what Mary Baker Eddy describes as the “divine law of Love, which blesses even those that curse it.” (cit. S7 I 30:14-25)

Mary Baker Eddy explains that, “The basic error is mortal mind.” (cit. S8 I 405:1) In other words, the basic error is in thinking that any thought exists outside of divine Mind and that anyone can be separate from divine Mind. (cit. S9 I 311:3) As I understand it, if we judge someone else’s thoughts and actions, we are accepting that there is a mind separate from divine Mind or actions that are beyond the power of divine Mind to correct. When we see or hear iniquity of any kind, it is an opportunity to be alert and affirm the omni-potency of Mind. Our prayer to affirm the omnipotence of Mind and Love to overturn and correct and govern all is better than mere human opinion to correct wrongdoing. Rather than to try and extract bad thoughts we see in someone else or in ourselves, we can turn it over to divine Love’s and get out of Love’s way. As Mary Baker Eddy states, “The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love.” (cit. S12 I 201:17)

SECTION 3: BEING IS UNFOLDMENT

The third section includes the account of Christ Jesus saying that when we are merciful and tender with the least among us (those who may seem to the outward appearance the least deserving), we are showing our love for God and Christ Jesus the Wayshower. And just as we show mercy and tenderness to others, we should also show mercy and tenderness to ourselves. When we speak harshly to ourselves with negative inner chatter, we are not honoring God. In fact, self-criticism is not our voice–and its definitely not God’s voice. If the words are harsh, they are not from God/Love and they are not from us as the image and likeness of God. So, we can tell the serpent of self-criticism to “shut up.”

We each need to learn how to silence self-condemnation. Self-condemnation is not helpful, and it does not come from God. As I understand it, overcoming this negativism is part of our growth. We must be receptive to tenderness, and also be fortified to reject unjust criticism—this is part of the unfoldment of our true being. This need for fortification is the way that I understand the citation, “Love is not hasty to deliver us from temptation, for Love means that we shall be tried and purified.” (S14) This is a tough citation to understand because we’re used to Love only being loving…why would Love not be hasty to deliver us from temptation?

Mary Baker Eddy states that God does not create human suffering, and yet this idea that “Love is not hasty to deliver us from temptation” seems as if she’s saying that Love allows us to be tempted. (S14) As I understand this sentence, she’s saying that we need to develop the proper resilience and strength—learn to put our armor on—as part of the unfoldment of our true nature. Our strength and resilience are already complete and yet they are also unfolding to us. We would not be hasty to make a rose unfold, or force a seed to open up. In the same way, our full strength is inherent, and developing. And Love is not hasty to make our strength unfold to us.

Another citation that’s tough to get in this section is “Sin makes its own hell, and goodness its own heaven.” (S17) This is my current understanding of this citation… Mary Baker Eddy uses “three degrees” to explain how we emerge from a limited to unlimited view of reality. (See Science and Health, page 115) The first degree is a limited, mortal, obscured view. The second degree is moving toward a more enlighten and spiritual view. And the third degree is a pure, true and whole view of reality. There is only one reality and it is only good, and we understand it in degrees (sometimes we seem to get it to a greater degree than other times).

In Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy often writes in the “second degree” and often in the “third degree,” as she refers to overcoming first-degree thinking. So, in places in which she writes that there is no sin, she is writing in “third-degree” language. She also uses “second-degree” language to explain how thought emerges from a limited to an unlimited view, from a first-degree to a third-degree view. The phrase from this week’s Lesson, ….”sin makes its own hell” is like a second-degree statement. It’s necessary to talk about “sin” even though in the third degree and true understanding of reality, “sin” does not exist.

To me, the phrase “sin makes it’s own hell” means that when we hold onto a false belief that we are separate from God, this belief makes us feel awful. This false belief makes us feel like we’re in hell. To the degree that we understand that divine Mind/Love corrects and governs us, we experience the third-degree awareness of wholeness, sinlessness, and the true fact that we are always—now and forever—at one and inseparable from divine Love.

To the degree that we understand that we are at-one with divine Love, we experience no sin. When we seem to be stuck in a first-degree mode of believing that we’re separate from Love…we believe we are separated from good. The truth is that we are never separate. Discovering our inseparability from divine Love is part of our unfolding…the constant unfolding of good.

Note: A great article to dig deeper into the concept of unfoldment is, “Being is Unfoldment” by Mary Sands Lee, From the January 1941 issue of The Christian Science Journal. Available on audio also.

Here’s a paragraph from this Journal article, “Unfoldment is divine Mind's mode of expression. It is Mind knowing and declaring itself. To humanity it appears either as the progressive revelation of reality in conscious individual experience, or as a crumbling of a false sense of what is good and desirable in order that thought may be turned from the false to the true. It is the activity of Love making divine facts manifest in human affairs; it is the showing forth, to human sense, of what is actually and continuously taking place.”

For me, the concept of “unfoldment” and the “three degrees” help to understand what may at first seem like challenging citations in in this section. (cits.S17, S18, S19 I 196:18, 537:14, 327:12).

Mary Baker Eddy describes that we can let the good and pure reign within us, so that limited first-degree thinking diminishes until it finally disappears. As she states, “Let unselfishness, goodness, mercy, justice, health, holiness, love — the kingdom of heaven — reign within us, and sin, disease, and death will diminish until they finally disappear.” (cit. S20 I 248:29)

There are not two versions of us, a sinning version and a perfect version, or a material version and a spiritual version. There is only ONE version and it is perfect, whole and complete. And we experience this truth to the degree that we let go of a limited/distorted view.

SECTION 4: “THE EMPHATIC PURPOSE OF CHRISTIAN SCIENCE IS THE HEALING OF SIN..” (Rud., p. 2:25)

The fourth section includes the story of Christ Jesus healing the man with palsy by forgiving his sins. To me, this is about seeing the man as already whole and pure and blameless, and not as palsied (stuck) in a sinful (separated) state. Christ Jesus’ correct view of this man, and his defense of this view, healed the man. Christ Jesus’ correct view brought everyone, including this man, into the full awareness of the man’s true being.

Healing the belief of sin—the separation from perfection—is not a secondary part of Christian Science. Christian Science is not about healing all physical problems and then later, once the body is a-okay, tending to someone’s belief that they’re unworthy of God’s love, or somehow separate from goodness. No. In one of my favorite statements from Mary Baker Eddy’s writings, she makes it clear that “The emphatic purpose of Christian Science is the healing of sin;” (Rudimental Divine Science, pp. 2:25–2)

As sin is healed, physical challenges dissolve.

I’ve found that many people who seem to be “sick” feel guilty because they think that they must have done something wrong to be “sick.” What an endless loop this would be if it were true! If we believe that we are sinful and that’s why we’re sick and then try to heal the sickness without healing the belief that we’re sinful first, it would not work very well. (cit. S23 I 318:16)

In other words, if we believe that we’re separate from God, and that’s why we’re sick, and then we try to heal the sickness without healing the belief that we’re separate from God, it wouldn’t work very well. Instead, we reverse the lie that we could ever be separated from God, good.

To heal the sickness, we first heal the belief that we could ever be separate from Love. Mary Baker Eddy explains, “We should relieve our minds from the depressing thought that we have transgressed a material law and must of necessity pay the penalty. Let us reassure ourselves with the law of Love.” (cit. S24 I 384:3)

Healing the sick through an absolute awareness of our at-one-ment with Love is the eternal means of healing.

SECTION 5: LOVE ALWAYS WINS

The fifth section helps us to know how to deal with situations in which people have sinned, have wronged us, or acted in ways that make them seem utterly separate from God. Lying, cheating, stealing, hating are obviously not tolerable. Are we supposed to stand around and let it happen or forgive it?

Or what if we are struggling with bad behaviors of our own and need to accept Christ’s forgiveness and a sense of renewal in our hearts and relationships. Are we supposed to accept our flaws and continue on our path? No. We must “at once change … course and do right.” (cit. S26 I 253:18) But how? For help with this intensely personal issue, the fifth section turns to gives us a gentle, caring letter from Paul the Apostle, that shows that he and God have time to root out and heal the deadening bitterness of unforgiveness even in conflicts within a single household.

In Paul’s only personal letter in the Bible, he writes to Philemon, asking him to forgive Onesimus, Philemon’s former slave who has now converted to Christianity, rather than punish him for running away. Paul basically says to Philemon who himself was converted during Paul’s visit to Colossae, “My plea is that you show kindness to Onesimus, and if Onesimus has harmed you in any way or stolen anything, charge me for it and I will repay you.” (cit. B19, Philemon 1) Put simply, Paul is asking for Philemon’s mercy.

The point of the letter is Paul affirming Onesimus’ true worthiness and Paul pleading for Philemon to accept him as a brother in Christ. Paul loves Onesimus with Christlike purity, sees him as worthy of freedom, and agrees to take on Onesimus’ debts. Paul says that even though Onesimus used to be trouble for Philemon, he is now so helpful that Paul himself would very much choose to have Onesimus right by his side during his time of need. To me, Paul’s plea suggests that Onesimus went through quite a transformation as he felt Paul’s pure and Christlike love and discovered his innate worthiness. For me, the point in including this story is to show that when we love the unlovable and so-called “sinners” in a pure and Christlike way, we see sin healed. And Paul was also loving Philemon, respecting him, and asking him for mercy.

Love heals sin. “The design of Love is to reform the sinner.” (cit. S25 I 35:30)

Mary Baker Eddy states, “Christian Science commands man to master the propensities, — to hold hatred in abeyance with kindness, to conquer lust with chastity, revenge with charity, and to overcome deceit with honesty.” Note that she does not say human will commands man to master the propensities. It is the Science of the Christ, the Law of Love that commands man. She states clearly, “Divine Love corrects and governs man.” (S&H 6:3)

Again, it is not human will or human punishment that corrects errors/mistakes. Divine Truth is what corrects mistakes. As Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Let Truth uncover and destroy error in God's own way, and let human justice pattern the divine.” (cit. S29 I 542:19) Love never fails. Love always wins.

Note: A classic article on applying pure Christian love to heal sin is “An unambiguous Christianity” by Richard C. Bergenheim from the May 1996 issue of The Christian Science Journal. Also available on audio.

SECTION 6: LOVE IS THE FULFILLING OF THE LAW

The sixth section puts an exclamation point on the fact that there is no everlasting punishment. Love always wins! “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged.” (cit. B21, Proverbs 16: 6)

As we read in Romans, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (cit. B22, Romans 13:10) Mary Baker Eddy writes, that “Divine Love is infinite. Therefore, all that really exists is in and of God, and manifests His love.” (cit. S31 I 340:12) This truth is true, and we can and must realize it and witness this fact of being in our experience.

As we understand the law of Love more and more clearly, we will see that it has always been and always will be true. We will find that the law of Love corrects and governs all. We can see the law of Love act in our own experience and also see how it governs the whole universe, including man.

Love heals individually and collectively. As Mary Baker Eddy states, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself;’ annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, — whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed.” (cit. S31 I 340:23)

Love is permanent and is enough to right any wrong. Discovering our unity with Love is salvation…the freedom from sin, sickness and the false belief of everlasting punishment.

The Science of the Christ, the Law of Love, is not mere self-help. It heals the world. Love heals sin individually and collectively. As Mary Baker Eddy states, “Unselfish ambition, noble life-motives, and purity, — these constituents of thought, mingling, constitute individually and collectively true happiness, strength, and permanence.” (cit. S32 I 58:7)


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