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Enjoy God’s Everlasting Mercy and Universal Goodness! That’s all God Gives Creation!
Metaphysical Application Ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

"Everlasting Punishment"
11
For the week ending November 4, 2018

By Kerry Jenkins CS, House Springs, MO
Kerry.helen.jenkins@gmail.com (314) 406-0041

This is the next in a series of Bible lessons that address theological creeds. The subject of Everlasting Punishment in the study of Christian Science always offers a deeper understanding of man's heritage of mercy and love everlasting. This is pointed out in Scripture such as Isaiah 54:8, our Golden Text this week: "…with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer." Similarly we hear from citation B2 in Psalms 100:5 "For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." These are Old Testament statements about God's nature as a God of redemption, grace, and mercy.

It is fair to point out that there are plenty of Biblical examples, especially in the Old Testament, of God being portrayed as a God of vengeance and anger. I am no Bible expert, but in many readings of Scripture over many years, I have found nearly all the stories in the Bible to have useful and inspiring symbolism that reveals God's nature to be consistently good. Any story or phrase that declares God to be vengeful or angry (as it says in the first part of the verse not included in our Golden text), merely points to someone's best understanding of why something might be taking place around them. For example, there are a number of places in the Old Testament where God is portrayed as telling the Jews to kill every person and animal in a town that they are taking for themselves. This sounds unlike any God that I contemplate on a daily basis! But when interpreted spiritually we might see this as spiritually symbolic. When we are accepting our right to the "promised land" of spiritual authority and freedom, we must cleanse/purify this "land"—our consciousness—of materialistic temptations to worship a false "god" of matter in whatever form. We don't want to "move in" and find ourselves tempted by the "local traditions" that come ready made with prosperous materiality (cattle, crops, and ornate idols, in the Biblical example—perhaps distracting materialistic activities and a false sense of prosperity in matter, in today's society).

The more deeply we understand God and demonstrate this understanding in daily life by healing, the more we see that God is not an epic human, with epically human emotions. No matter how we tend to fall short in our estimates of God as a really powerful human-like figure, we can always find redemption when we reach spiritually higher to understand God as the divine "…law of Love." (S25) Knowing more about God as such, does not make Him a distant undefined "idea". Rather, it gives us instant healing access to a power and Love that is unlimited by matter, including human emotions of retribution, revenge, anger, or any desire to condemn or punish eternally.

In my current reading of the Bible I am in the chapter of Matthew. My goal of late has been to read and ponder every word, rather than conveniently ignoring the verses that don't sync with my beliefs as a Christian Scientist. Without getting sidetracked by this, I thought it might help to share what I'm seeing as I read a series of Jesus' parables that end with verses like this: "As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." And "…these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." These words are attributed to the man eating with the sinners in this week's lesson in Section 4—and telling us about the worthy act of searching for the one lost sheep or the one piece of lost silver in the same section. Jesus also told a murderer on the cross next to him: "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Luke 23:43

The message that I hear in all these cases is that the weeping/gnashing of teeth/eternal punishment, describes our experience when we are doing wrong. When we are sinning, missing the mark, willfully ignoring God's call to right doing, we suffer. This suffering continues until we turn away from the wrongdoing with our whole hearts and recognize the man that Jesus best illustrated for all time—the Christ man. To this man, sin is utterly foreign. This is the man that we must discover for ourselves, our true spiritual manhood/womanhood. In discovering this, we find ourselves free from any impulse to sin, free from disease (see citation B20), and free from any punishment brought on, not by God, but by the sin itself. Hopefully this newer view of an old theological belief will help us this week to find our own life-giving freedom from the false identity of man as a sinner.

Section 1: A loving God never made a man susceptible to sin. [See W’s PS#1 on citation B3.]

It may seem like a conundrum to think of man as sinless and simultaneously recognize our need to outgrow sinful thoughts and practices. Humanly, it certainly seems that we do "miss the mark", and often. Christian Science takes a fresh view on this subject by elevating our understanding of man to be a man that is complete, spiritual, not needing anything outside of the divine and total satisfaction and abundance of Life and Love (names for God).

In the last verse of Mary Baker Eddy's poem "Satisfied" she says: "The centuries break, the earth-bound wake, God's glorified! Who doth His will—His likeness still—Is satisfied." It is God's likeness, spiritual, eternal, perfect/complete and sinless that is satisfied (never needing, or feeling the need, to sin). We can wake from "earth bound" thoughts to recognize this eternally available wholeness that is our true identity. In fact, this is the only way to true healing because true healing is a revelation of man's true nature, not one bound to matter/earth. "Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin because he is born of God." (B4) Is this some "far off" man that we find after "death"? No! This is the man that we are to discover more and more of each day, especially through pondering the example that Jesus left for us!

Traditional theology might have us pondering the sinner, begging God for forgiveness, or, perhaps relying on a human view of Scripture that would give us the sense that God sacrificed His son, Jesus, so that once and for all time, we are freed from the sin and the resultant punishment. But if we read Jesus' words about "weeping and gnashing of teeth", etc. we can see that his demand on us is that we learn from his example how to leave this earth bound view of man—leave off sinning for a brighter and eternally beautiful view of the God-like man. The grace that is referenced especially in the Responsive Reading this week comes from our spiritually enlightened recognition of our nature as God's beloved, the man "born of God." Nothing feels more gracious than the recognition, the revelation, of our true pure nature as God's child!

Section 2: The "…process of weaning…" is necessary. [See W’s PS#2 on citation B5.]

Who doesn't want to do better, to know God more deeply? Not many. But that desire generally is not enough to get us to "…learn Life in divine Science." (S9) It would seem that we need to be turned to God/Love by our "…disappointments and ceaseless woes…". This is sin punishing itself. (S7) This might sound depressing, but really it is a matter of seizing every opportunity and regarding it as an opportunity to grow in our understanding of spiritual reality. That kind of opportunity is far from depressing. If matter rewarded us consistently, we'd have no reason to move from the dream of material living, to discovering the reality, the freedom of deeply joyous spiritual living. This is just the nature of things. This is what Manasseh apparently discovered after many years of ignoring God's voice. (It even says:"And the Lord spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.") Doesn't that mean that God/Good is always guiding, we have only to listen?

The process of changing our course can be painful, but look at Mar Baker Eddy's wording in this passage: "weaning". A baby nurses until it is old enough to eat solid food and drink from a cup. No one would say that it is sad that a baby must learn to move on from nursing eventually! That would be so limiting! Think of the independence, the freedom, the variety, that learning to eat food, and to drink from a cup brings! Yet, the baby might find this process uncomfortable, desiring to feel just that familiar sense of comfort and closeness to his mother that nursing brings.

Eventually, as a result of weaning, painful though the process may be, the baby/young child finds a new freedom and joy, and no lessening of love! That's just a human example, but spiritually, we have to wean ourselves from being dependent on matter for our sense of love, joy, supply, satisfaction, companionship, family, safety, security and so on. Eventually, we will learn that all good comes from God. Until that time, we are daily weaning ourselves from this material dependence through demonstration. "Through the wholesome chastisements of Love, we are helped onward in the march towards righteousness, peace, and purity, which are the landmarks of Science." (S10) This weaning leads to "righteousness, peace and purity", who doesn't want to feel and embody these qualities?

Section 3: God opens the way, but we have to be willing and obedient! (B9) [PS#3 on B8.]

As long as we enjoy sinning, it is pretty much impossible to quit, and so the punishment for sin rolls along. (S13) Take addiction, for example. This is really a hard one, as anyone who has felt its pull can attest. Christian Science is about the only way I know where we can truly experience a complete freedom from addiction, beyond just stopping.

This freedom includes the freedom from any desire for the chosen addictive substance, not just the ability to refrain from imbibing or participating in that addiction. This freedom comes not only from what many call the "grace" of God, but from a more complete understanding that this grace includes the knowledge of ourselves as spiritually complete ideas, rather than material identities whose bodies are subject to various pulls and dependencies. To see some beautiful examples of this kind of healing you can look at two excellent healings in Science and Health on pages 678-679 "Depraved appetites overcome" and "An ever-present help" 655-657. To me, the beauty of man as revealed in Christian Science is that it reveals the Genesis 1-based truth about God's creation, rather than starting from the standpoint of a sinner and trying to climb out of the darkness of that hole, so to speak. This knowledge does not prevent us from needing to confront the suggestion that we are sinful, but it gives us a platform of freedom from which we can more readily recognize our true nature. This is the kind of beauty described in the old hymn "Amazing Grace" that tells of the author's recognition of the blindness of sin, and the revelation of truth that strips away that blindness.

Section 4: Destroying sin brings eternal life. [See W’s PS#4 on citation B15.]

There are several places in the Bible that tell us that sin brings death. Why is that? Because when we are enjoying (or think we are enjoying) the pleasures of matter, we are believing that there is life and being in matter. Matter dies. Spirit is undying and Spirit's reflection, man, is undying. We have to glimpse this true nature of man in our human experience in order to understand something of our eternal, spiritual nature. The Christ, embodied best in Jesus, comes to help mankind understand God and man more clearly.

Jesus came to help those who needed help the most, those who were lost in matter through sin or sickness. Those who were confident in their own personal goodness, and were often more materially prosperous, were less prepared for, receptive to, his message. In this section we have the parable of the shepherd who searches for his one lost sheep and the parable of the woman who thoroughly sweeps her house to look for the lost piece of silver. It occurs to me, this time, that rather than just a tale of being diligent in redeeming the sinner/lost one, there is an element here that is extra. The sheep is not "gone"—just lost. The shepherd knows this and will not give up until he finds it! The woman's silver is in the house, she knows this. So, of course she is diligent in her efforts to find it! We are never out of reach, beyond redemption. Our Savior is always redeeming us and saving us from sin. "Love never loses sight of loveliness." (Science and Health p.248:3 only) It is our recognition of our worthiness that helps us to destroy sin, to be "found", and to experience the "superabundance of being" that spiritual living brings. (S22)

Section 5: The true law is the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the law of Love. (B18, S25) [See W’s PS#5 and PS#6 on citation B20.]

There is no "law of sin". The only law that is true is the law of God or Love. This law exempts us from punishment when the sin is destroyed—this is divine grace! In this law there is freedom for mankind. We are not subject to punishment for good work, because that would not be in accord with a God who is Love. This is implied in this story of Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law (B20). Her joy and freedom in serving and ministering to Jesus and his disciples was restored through Jesus' understanding that man is not subject to any law but the law of Good.

Often we seem to experience "punishment" for activities that are good. We feel exhausted when staying up to help someone in need, or to finish a school project in which we have invested a lot of good work. Perhaps we get sick when we are spending time around others that appear to be experiencing some seemingly contagious illness, or we find ourselves sore and uncomfortable after a challenging physical workout. We can find our freedom from the false laws of matter that tell us these are natural results of contributing good. There are no "laws" that compete with God's law of good. This might seem hard to realize at times, but with true desire to bless behind our activities, our pure motives reveal the spiritual nature of our activity, and so the exemption that we can experience. Muscles are not involved in spiritual activity; Love does not share germs; blessing others in need brings only vigor and joy, not exhaustion!

Just a couple of weeks ago I began experiencing symptoms of flu. I was feeling very unwell with a number of uncomfortable symptoms. It was hard, at first, to hide some of these symptoms from my family, but I felt a strong impulse to not discuss or declare that I was feeling unwell. This was not out of stubbornness, but felt God-impelled. I did not experience instant relief, but I held to my exemption from laws of contagion, and was fully recovered in fewer than two days (also able to complete most tasks during this time). But, to me, the real blessing came in the freedom everyone else in the family experienced. There was no one else who felt these uncomfortable symptoms, proving that contagion is not a law of Love, but of material belief. I was convinced that by sharing only love, reflecting God's Love, Love was all that could influence my family. The truth that God's law of Love is the only true law freed us from experiencing any false "laws" of matter.

Section 6: There is nothing to accuse of evil in the Christ man/God's creation.

This weekend I am involved in a performance of Haydn's "Creation". It is a beautiful oratorio filled with gorgeous music, much of it painting a picture of the seven days of creation from the Bible. It doesn't delve into the uglier part of creation in the second chapter, though it ends with Adam and Eve—but it did remind me of the old theological view of the fragility of His creation, on the verge of destroying all the beauty that God originally bestowed. This version can seem captivating if we confine ourselves to the view we get with material sense. Like those stories in the Bible that try to explain certain actions as "the wrath of God", our material senses will always be aware of evil—and struggling to explain it from a material sense of the seeming fragility of good. But a spiritually deeper understanding of God, and of His creation, leads us to glimpse the eternal goodness of creation.

This true creation needs no punishment. This creation is one that ever beholds our true sonship/daughtership derived of the Divine. In this creation, there is completeness that brings total satisfaction in the infinite goodness and beauty of God. Matter will tell us that this is an impossible ideal. Spiritual sense (and Christian Science) will help us to discern this goodness daily through healing. Step by step we can take Jesus' Christly example and walk away from the material theological model, and accept and embrace our freedom and wholeness, our divinely sinless nature.


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