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(Editor’s Note: The following background information and application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson for this week are offered primarily to help CedarS campers and staff see and demonstrate the great value of daily study of the C.S. Bible lessons year-round, not just at camp. If more information or the text of this Lesson is desired, please see the Director’s Note at the end. The citations referenced in the “met” (metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the King James Version of the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. These two books are the pastor for Churches of Christ, Scientist, worldwide for which the Bible Lesson-Sermon is prepared and from which it is read.  Other reference books are fully noted at the end.)

Life Is Love in Action
Application ideas for the Christian Science Quarterly Bible-lesson on “Love”  for 1/24-30, 2005
by Craig L. Ghislin, C.S. Bartlett, Illinois

Golden Text
The dictum, “God is Love” sets the tone for our Lesson. Interpreter’s notes that “Christian belief and Christian life are inseparably linked. As a man believes, so he lives. As a man lives, so is his real belief. The initiative is always from God. He loved first.” These words will be exemplified by the actions of the characters in the rest of this Lesson. Even though the main story takes place before the Christian era, the message holds, what we do is the result of how we think. Our actions reveal our nature.

Responsive Reading
We begin with Jesus being questioned as to the means of inheriting eternal life. Jesus responds with a question about the law. The lawyer answers with a recitation of the law, which demands love for God and our neighbor. The lawyer then pushes the point by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers with the story of a man who is beaten on a dangerous road. A priest and Levite coming “by chance” pass by without helping. But a third man, a foreigner on a business trip, stops to help and follows through by bringing him to safety. Note that the first two had no particular agenda. But the last man, had business to attend to, yet he still took the time to help.

To the Jews, “neighbor” usually meant “another Jew”. Jesus’ implication that a Samaritan might be considered a neighbor was shocking. “In contrast to a priest and Levite the listeners might have expected a layman. But the man from Samaria represented both racial impurity and religious heresy” (Interpreter’s).

Jesus taught love for everyone and by everyone regardless of race, position, age, or any human circumstance. In finding ways that this lesson applies to us, we might begin by asking ourselves if we would put our personal plans aside and put ourselves at risk to save not only someone we might not know, but someone whom we might consider to be a less than desirable character.

Much of this week’s Lesson has to do with how one responds to a variety of stressful situations. We will see how different characters relate to each other when mistakes are made and what it takes to correct them.

Section I:  God Is Love
As in the Golden Text, we begin with “God is Love” (B1). This is a main theme for all New Testament writers. The Old Testament is often thought of as concentrating on The Law. The New Testament generally emphasizes the “Gospel” or the loving Spirit. In this Lesson on Love, a majority of the citations are taken from the Old Testament. In Psalm 139 (B2), we turn back the clock from John’s elevated understanding to find the highest Old Testament conception of God as caring for the individual man. We cannot escape the loving care God has for us. In Psalm 36 (B3) “the character qualities of God, his loving-kindness, his loyalty, his righteousness and his justice are suggested” (Abingdon’s). As you work through the rest of the Lesson, note how the main characters reflect the same qualities. The remaining Bible citations in this section support that God is ever watchful over His creation.

Science and Health begins with a recurring theme over the last month. ” ‘God is Love.’ More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go.” The next passage parallels the passage in Psalms by listing the various synonyms and attributes of God (S&H 2). Love being the Principle of man, cannot be understood from limited human perspectives. God is infinite and can only be comprehended through spiritual ideas (S&H 3). This divine Love encompasses everything and that is really all there is! (S&H 4, 5).

Section II:  How Not to Behave
Here begins the story of Nabal (B6) which means fool. Nabal, a wealthy shepherd, is shearing sheep. This was an occasion for a feast. The owner would have been expected to provide liberally for the servants and guests. (All historical detail regarding this story is taken from Interpreter’s.) Nabal has a wise and beautiful wife named Abigail. Nabal however, is described as being “churlish” meaning, “severe, cruel, hard, heavy, impudent, obstinate, rough, sore, stubborn” (Strong’s). David sent ten men to ask payment for protection he had given to Nabal’s men. Nabal refuses and adds an insult. Although it’s not in the Lesson, upon hearing Nabal’s reply, David musters four hundred of his men to answer the insult by wiping Nabal out. Abigail, in the meantime, is told of her husband’s folly.

Psalm 109 (B7) voices the perplexity of having our good efforts repaid with evil. To some degree we have all felt insulted one way or another. How would you respond to hurt pride? With violence, or kindness? David didn’t yet have the benefit of knowing the Golden Rule or the Sermon on the Mount. In his time he was expected to react with force. It was a matter of honor. What do you think is the best way to defend your honor? By contrast, have you ever felt like Nabal? Have you ever resented being expected to do something you didn’t want to do? There’s a lot to think about here.

S&H 6 appears to be focusing on the situation from David’s point of view. We can never lose by doing good things, or by behaving lovingly. The harder a situation is, the harder we have to pray to express love (S&H 7). At this point in the story, we have two wrongs brewing. Nabal behaved badly, and David wants to make him pay for it. Citation S&H 8 could apply to both of them. Love, the “universal solvent” needs to dissolve the mass of error. Getting “self” out of the way is job number one. It is the false sense of “self” that stands in the way of our reflecting our divine nature. This activity doesn’t mean we lose ourselves. It means we find more of who we are (S&H 9).

Section III:  Making Amends 
In this scene, Abigail unbeknownst to Nabal, assembles a large present with hopes of meeting David before he gets to her husband. She intercepts David and his forces and asks David to refrain from taking revenge on Nabal. David was planning not only to wipe out Nabal, but also every man in the household. This would have been standard operating procedure during that period, which is why Abigail was so urgent in her efforts. She acknowledges her husband’s foolishness, she offers to bear the guilt herself, and presents her gift (B8). Although, all of her plea is not in the Lesson, it is interesting that she appeals to David’s spiritual sense. She reminds him that God has always protected him, and to avenge Nabal on his own, without God’s approval, might jeopardize his future rule over Israel. David sees the wisdom of this. He thanks God for sending her, blesses her, and receives her gift. This is an excellent example of not using force to overcome force. It took an awfully strong love for her husband, her people, and the future of Israel, to put herself at risk and try to stem the approaching violence. If you were in her place, do you think you would have done the same thing? On the other hand, if you were David, would you be so quick to correct your course?

In Colossians (B9), we see the outlining of the proper Christly attitude. Mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forgiveness, and above all, love characterize the true Christian. Note how similar these attributes are to the qualities of God discussed earlier.

In Science and Health, we are reminded that the most inspired and profound counsel is to, “love one another” (S&H 11). In the next passage (S&H 12), we are cautioned to overcome the lower tendencies in human nature with their spiritual opposites. Abigail successfully halted an army against her people. Mrs. Eddy warns us to counteract the negative aspects of human nature to prevent an “army of conspirators” that would try to stop us in our spiritual journey. S&H 13 is one of my favorite sentences. We are urged to walk and “act as possessing all power” from God. More often than not, we “act” just the opposite! But this is a reminder of what it takes to succeed. As we put on that Christian character, we will begin to live up to its promise. The final two citations in this section provide the rationale for loving everyone, reminding us that God is the Father of all.

Section IV:  Error Destroyed/ The Right Idea Brought Forth
The story continues (B10) with Abigail returning to a drunken husband. In the morning, she tells him how she averted disaster. He becomes paralyzed and dies ten days later. David sees this as God’s hand of justice. In gratitude for her keeping him from bloodguilt, he offers to take her as a wife. After Nabal died, it could have looked to Abigail, that her efforts may have been wasted, since she lost her husband in spite of her corrective actions. But David’s offer of marriage is proof that the Lord never leaves us alone (B11). The following passages (B12, 13) underscore the loving care with which God tends to us. Our every need is met.

The textbook shows that as David saw God’s hand in correcting a bad situation, so in our experience, tough times force us to turn to God (S&H 16). This section’s focus then centers on the marriage relationship (S&H 17-20), although we can certainly adapt these passages to all relationships. The “appearance” of a good relationship doesn’t necessarily make it so. As Abigail and Nabal’s relationship despite material prosperity, lacked spiritual impetus and dissolved, so will our false hopes be replaced by elevated desires. True permanence and happiness, is based on spiritual qualities mutually shared. Abigail and Nabal were a mismatch. They had opposite views of what was important in life. Also, the relationship appeared one sided. She was willing to sacrifice everything for peace and harmony; he was selfish and wouldn’t even share a meal. It were well would we all heed this wise marriage counsel in our textbook. As those of you in budding relationships contemplate long-term life choices, take the time to evaluate your relationship according to the deep things of spirit.

Section V:  Love Directs and Protects 
In this section, we see further evidence of God’s care for His children. When David returns home from a campaign (B15), he finds the city sacked and all the women and children had been taken captive including his wives. Rather than acting on impulsive revenge, he queries the Lord as to whether or not he should pursue them. David receives an affirmative reply and sets off. Along the way he finds a slave abandoned in the desert. After caring for him he finds out that his former master was one of the invaders David was chasing. In return for protection, the man brings David and his men to the enemy encampment, where David defeats his enemy and recovers all that he had lost. In this episode we see evidence that when one is working with God, he cannot lose anything that is rightful and good.

Our Leader assures us (S&H 21) that having a strong relationship with God, we cannot be deprived of anything good. The power of God keeps us free (S&H 22). No matter what difficulties come along, God will guide us and we will gain from the experience (S&H 23). As we cannot be separated from the Love of God, so God cannot be separated from us. Everything harmonious and good resides in God and is therefore, invulnerable (S&H 24). David was successful in his campaign, because he looked to God for direction. Allowing love to govern all our actions, we can rely on God to remedy every circumstance (S&H 25). It has been said that Mrs. Eddy once told her secretary, “Everything does us good.” The next time you find yourself in a situation that appears to be a defeat or that demands retribution, try remembering this lesson. Recall that since God is Love, you can patiently rely on Him to make every trial a blessing.

Section VI: When You Ask, You Can Expect to Receive
In this final section we return to the ultimate exemplar of God’s love for man. Everything Jesus did was motivated by love. His loving compassion resulted in healing (B16, 17). Jesus lived his love and taught us to count on God’s love. He taught and proved that when we ask of God, we can expect an answer (B18). As Christian Scientists, we are very familiar with the scriptures regarding God’s love. In traditional theology, this love has been emphasized mainly in contrast to our sinning human nature barely deserving that love. It is no little thing to recognize the loving nature of God simply for what it is. We are not prone to sin and doomed to act out the lower propensities. We deserve to be blessed and we can reflect God’s love naturally.

The textbook underscores this message by pointing out that “Love is universal and impartial…” (S&H 26). Our every need is always met by divine Love. God’s ability is infinite and we can recognize and practice it (S&H 27). In this Lesson we’ve seen examples from both the Old and New Testaments of going to God first, and letting our actions and thoughts be guided by Love to correct all sorts of evil. We’ve seen wrongs made right and right prevail. We’ve seen that reliance on God, far outweighs reliance on one’s self. Reaching our patients through Love brings instant results (S&H 28). The great thing is that we are not alone in our efforts. The Christ spirit enables us to succeed! (S&H 29). Keeping our actions at one with Love ensures us that we can never be lost in his sight. As we reflect what we understand of God’s love, we will see that in reality, the only thing happening anywhere is Love in action!

The reference books used in this met were:
The Abingdon Bible Commentary

The One Volume Bible Commentary edited by J.R. Dummelow, M.A.

The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong , S.T.D., LL. D.

Camp Director’s Note: The above sharing is the latest in a long series of CedarS Bible Lesson “mets” (metaphysical application ideas) contributed weekly by a rotation of CedarS Resident Practitioners and occasionally by other metaphysicians.  This document is intended to initiate further study as well as to encourage the application of ideas found in the Weekly Bible Lessons as printed in the Christian Science Quarterly and as available at Christian Science Reading Rooms.* Originally sent JUST 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 and inspiration they had felt at camp, CedarS lesson “mets” are in no way meant to be definitive or conclusive or in any way a substitute for daily study of the lesson in the books. The thoughts presented are the inspiration of the moment and are offered to give a bit more dimension, background and daily applicability to some of the ideas and passages being studied. 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 these 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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