We're welcoming back campers!

“God’s grace overturns the lie of ‘everlasting punishment.’”
Metaphysical Application Ideas for The Christian Science Quarterly Bible Lesson on

“Everlasting Punishment”
for April 26-May 2, 2021

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

AUDIO for “Everlasting Punishment” by Christie Hanzlik, CS – CedarS Camps
or: www.cedarscamps.org/metaphysical/audio/play/audio-met-on-neverlasting-punishment-by-christie-hanzlik-cs/

INTRODUCTION

The topic “Everlasting Punishment” sounds ominous at first glance. But this week’s Bible Lesson is actually about reversing a belief in everlasting punishment to discover everlasting joy and salvation. Everlasting punishment is a major theological point for many religious denominations. When Mary Baker Eddy included it as one of the subjects for the Bible Lesson, she was boldly rejecting the concept of a punishing deity and eternal damnation, which many religious leaders connect to the ministry of Christ Jesus. She refuted “everlasting punishment” as false theology, and revealed a healing Science that follows Christ Jesus as the Wayshower to everlasting peace. She didn’t accept sin – the separation of God and man – as an innate condition of our existence, but instead saw sin as an unnatural belief that we can and must shake off through prayer. As she put it, “The emphatic purpose of Christian Science is the healing of sin…” (Rudimental Divine Science, p2) She rejected “everlasting punishment,” and saw that healing sin (a belief of separation) results in everlasting joy and salvation as a “present possibility.” (Science and Health 574: 1)

This week’s lesson uses the example of three people from the Bible to show ways in which we can experience the grace—unconditional love—of God that removes sin. “Divine Love corrects and governs man” is a law. (Citation S12, 6:3) And we see the activity of this law operate in the lives of these three individuals—Jonah, the man at the pool of Bethesda, and the unknown woman who washes Christ Jesus’s feet. We may each seem to face sinful suggestions such as these three people did—self-righteousness, ignorance, or unworthiness—but accepting God’s redeeming love frees us from the “everlasting punishment” of falsely believing we are unworthy of or separate from Love’s healing power.

GOLDEN TEXT and RESPONSIVE READING

In the Golden Text (or main idea) of the Lesson, we see the phrase “everlasting joy,” which is an early indication that this Lesson is more fun and uplifting than the subject suggests. Overturning the concept of “everlasting punishment” should be fun! As we understand the true nature of the all-loving source of our being, we should “come with singing,” and everlasting joy should be upon our heads as we are redeemed (saved from sin). We are filled with gladness and joy as our sorrow and mourning flees away. (Isaiah 51:11)

There are many ways in which we seem to experience hints of “everlasting punishment.” It may try to come to us in the form of self-criticism, regret, resentment, guilt, hostility, irritation, or even feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes these suggestions come to us in the form of icky inner chatter that repeats itself in a way that feels like everlasting punishment. But we can silence the inner chatter with one word: grace. Grace is the conscious awareness of God’s unconditional love. Grace has power to overturn everlasting punishment because it is the everlasting awareness of our inherent worthiness. “Grace” is the metaphysical theme for CedarS this year. And, “Grace to go forward” is the theme of the Annual Meeting of the Mother Church in Boston, Massachusetts. And grace is what overturns the lie of “everlasting punishment.” Grace sets us free to experience everlasting joy.

The Responsive Reading is right on target with these grace-oriented themes. It opens with the idea, “the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men…” And this grace leads us to “live soberly” (with clarity), “righteously” (with integrity), and “godly” (with purity), “in this present world” (now). For we are “sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived” and so forth, but God’s grace corrects and governs us with everlasting love. (Titus 2: 11, 3: 3-7; Citation S12, 6:3)

This idea that Love “corrects and governs” may sound threatening because it is not always fun to be “corrected.” But, the next part of the Responsive Reading from Hebrews explains why it is good to be corrected. The author of Hebrews writes, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. So, take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (Hebrews 12: 9-13, NLT)

Anyone who has participated in sports, or dance, or any craft can relate to the necessity of discipline to become effective at what we do. Discipline does not mean punishment. Discipline is about training to correct, mold, or perfect the mental faculties or moral character. A ballerina, baseball pitcher, artist, musician or writer without any discipline would not be very effective at what they do. For each of those people, the practice involved in gaining discipline may be difficult at first, but the rewards are infinite. Part of mastering any craft is gaining discipline. And our spiritual discipline enables us to master the craft of life. One place to turn to for honing spiritual discipline is the section on “Discipline” in the Manual of the Mother Church. This is where we find the “Daily Prayer,” “A Rule for Motives and Acts,” and “Alertness to Duty”—three tools that help us hone our healing work and find everlasting joy.

SECTION 1: “SINless Joy” and the Perfect Childhood

In the first section, the selections from both the Bible and Science and Health remind us that we are not flawed mortals that need correcting, but rather we are already whole, complete and perfect and this wholeness, completeness, and perfection is unfolding and being revealed to us now. While the phrase “God’s perfect child” is not found in Science and Health, it is a phrase repeated often among Christian Scientists, and so deserves some careful thought.

First, what does it mean to be perfect? It does not mean that we have particular physical characteristics; a certain eye color, hair color, height and weight. “Perfect” doesn’t mean that we score a particular way on an IQ test, and “perfect” has nothing to do with our bank account, age, marital status, awards, academic degrees, jobs, or the number of children we might have. Instead, as I see it, being the perfect child means that we are perfectly connected to the divine Parent. This phrase is about our at-one-ment. With this in mind, being God’s perfect child means that there is no separation between the Parent and the child (no sin), and that the child knows of the Parent’s unconditional love. Christ is the “true idea voicing good” between Parent and child, and the Christ-bond is unbreakable. (SH 332:9-11) The Parent cherishes the child and is the perfect discipliner—never harsh, always patient, and meeting every need. The child understands the Parent, is receptive to the Parent’s discipline, and maintains an expectancy of good. This is a perfect Parent-child relationship and it is our divine right. This Parent-child relationship is an “everlasting covenant,” an unbreakable contract. (cit. B5, Isaiah 55:3) The Christ-bond between Parent and child is intact. Note that we are the children of God, not the adults of God…an important distinction!

There is never a separation or imperfection between us (the children) and our divine Parent. And there is never a misstep or unjust treatment from the divine Parent. Our Parent does not pick favorites. The perfect Parent is omniscient, omni-present and has infinite supply and infinite love for each child. And our task is to see and accept this supply and love. What a great task! Mary Baker Eddy describes the state of accepting our perfect relationship with our Parent this way: “The sinless joy, — the perfect harmony and immortality of Life, possessing unlimited divine beauty and goodness without a single bodily pleasure or pain, — constitutes the only veritable, indestructible man, whose being is spiritual.” (citation S6, SH 76:22-26)

The “sinless joy” is the joy that we have as we realize our inseparability from the divine Parent. “Sinless joy” is a present possibility.

SECTION 2: JonaH Feels Swallowed up with GUILT

The second section opens with comforting words about the love our divine Father has for us as sons, and the sinlessness (inseparability) we discover as we become aware of our innate connection (everlasting covenant) with the divine Father. We can, of course, read these ideas knowing that they are not gender specific and apply to all of God’s children. (cit. B6, I John 3:1, 6)

In “Unity of Good,” Mary Baker Eddy writes about this sinless (unbreakable) relationship between the Parent and child: “Man’s individuality is not a mortal mind or sinner; or else he has lost his true individuality as a perfect child of God. Man’s Father is not a mortal mind and a sinner; or else the immortal and unerring Mind, God, is not his Father; but God is man’s origin and loving Father, hence that saying of Jesus, “Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Unity of Good, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 53:21)

The second section begins the story of Jonah, a prophet who disobeyed God’s instructions to go to Nineveh because of self-will and self-justification. In the story, a wild storm threatens the ship Jonah’s on, and Jonah tells the crew of the ship that the storm is his fault because he disobeyed God. Thus, they throw him overboard as a sacrifice and Jonah is swallowed up by a great fish, which we often describe as a whale. (cit. B7, Jonah 1:1-17)

Note that in the Old Testament where the book of Jonah is, God is several times portrayed as a “punishing God.” The concept of God as Love unfolds as the Bible progresses toward the New Testament and Christ Jesus’ ministry. The true nature of God as Love unfolds and becomes clearer and clearer as we proceed from the Old Testament to the New Testament. So, in Jonah’s context, God was still understood as somewhat manlike and punitive.

I have certainly felt like Jonah before. And I’ve had many belly-of-the-whale moments. The time “inside the belly” can feel like “everlasting punishment.” This is a description of sin—feeling separate from God, feeling like we’re missing the mark. As Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Sin is its own punishment.” (cit. S11, 537:14-15) In other words, feeling separated from God’s love is its own punishment because we’re feeling unloved.

The second section leaves us at a bit of a cliffhanger…will Jonah be stuck in the fish’s belly forever? Will he suffer everlasting punishment? But, of course, we know this couldn’t’ happen. And the section concludes with the promise that “Divine Love corrects and governs man.” And we also get the message that “To cause suffering as the result of sin [feeling separate], is the means of destroying sin [feeling separate].” And that “To reach heaven, the harmony of being, we must understand the divine Principle of being.” (all in cit. S12, 6:3, 11-12, 14) With these statements we can begin to understand what is going on for Jonah, and what he needs to do in order to feel his inseparable connection to God once again.

SECTION 3: Jonah rediscovers his perfection

In the third section, Jonah figures out how much his divine Parent loves him. And he is released from the whale (also known as everlasting punishment). In truth, Jonah was never outside of Love’s care.

It stands out to me that as Jonah figures out his sinless nature and is freed from his belly-of-the-whale moment, the Ninevites also discover their sinlessness—”they turned from their evil way.” (cit. B10, Jonah 2:1, 2, 8–10) This is an example of how our understanding of God as Love can be demonstrated individually and collectively. As we conquer sin (the belief of separation), we are conquering the sins of the world.

Thus, the healing of sin isn’t merely self-help, it’s the highest form of loving others—seeing all mankind as sinless. Healing sin and conquering the belief that we or anyone else could be separated from the love of God is an “unselfed love.” As Mary Baker Eddy writes at the beginning of Science and Health, “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, — a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.” (cit. S14, 1:1-4)

Jonah took the steps to recognize his disobedience, remember his love and devotion to God, and recommit to following God’s way faithfully. He went through sorrow and reformation to discover God’s grace—God’s unconditional love. (cit. S18, 5:3–11)

If Jonah had only gone partway in his prayer, he may still have been unwilling to go to Nineveh and dreaded it with fear…his journey would have been “hell” for him. But instead, he was able to fulfil his mission with harmony. Mary Baker Eddy describes this type of experience: “The design of Love is to reform the sinner. If the sinner’s punishment here has been insufficient to reform him, the good man’s heaven would be a hell to the sinner.” As this relates to Jonah, had Jonah not fully repented (changed his ways), the journey to Nineveh would have been hell, an everlasting punishment. (cit. S15, 35:30–1) God’s grace freed Jonah from the “belly of hell” in every way.

SECTION 4: Man IN BEthesda discovers his Perfection

Section 4 uses the account of Christ Jesus healing the man at the pool of Bethesda as another example of someone overcoming the belief of “everlasting punishment.” I was happy to see this story in the lesson because I’ve been drawing inspiration from it for the past month. In the account, the man at Bethesda, who has been struggling for a very long time, believes that he needs to get into the healing pools right at the moment that the water stirs in order to be healed. But his disability means that someone always beats him to it. Jesus sees him, knows that the man has been like this for a long time, and asks him, “Wilt thou be made whole?” And then, before the man answers, Jesus says, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” At this point the man is healed and Jesus disappears into the crowd. Later, Christ Jesus sees the man in the temple and gives the man further instructions: “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” (cit. B13, John 5:1-14)

Okay, so this is what is particularly inspiring to me…. From the account, there is nothing to suggest that the man in Bethesda was a spiritual seeker or particularly thoughtful. In fact, when Christ Jesus spoke to him, he kind of whined….”no one will help me and so I suffer.” But Christ Jesus met his need, and knew he was loved. Paraphrasing Mary Baker Eddy’s words for this context, Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man (perfectly at-one with God), where a sinning man (separate from God and suffering everlasting punishment) who couldn’t get into the pool appeared to everyone else, and Christ Jesus’ correct view healed the man. (SH 476:32-2) Christ Jesus’ pure love for the man…seeing him in his true likeness…healed him. And then Christ Jesus said to the man, sin no more. In other words, he told the man not to believe that he is separate from divine Love. Now, before this encounter, the man at the pool of Bethesda probably accepted the general belief of the time that his infirmity was his fault and he was a sinner, cursed by God to endure everlasting punishment. But Christ Jesus overturned this injustice with his correct view of the man’s sinlessness. Its notable that the man wasn’t seeking restoration in this way. The Christ reached for him.

This story can inspire us during those moments in which feel inadequate. I mean, look at the man in Bethesda. He wasn’t reading his Torah or praying to God or even hoping to meet Christ Jesus. All he was thinking about was getting into the pool. He was looking to a pool of water instead of to God for his answers. And yet, Christ reached out to him.

The Christ is still speaking to us with comfort even when we’re not paying attention. This indicates that even when we do not understand our at-one-ment with Love, it is still true. Even when we don’t understand everything about Love’s love for us, it is still true. Even when we don’t understand the whole of how the Science of the Christ heals, it is still true. The key, from what I understand from this account, is accepting the Christ message — “the true idea voicing good.” (SH 332:9) The Christ-message is ever-present, always comforting us, even if all we’re thinking about is metaphorically getting into the pool. Christ-love reaches us even when we don’t think we deserve it. This is God’s grace exemplified. And we can and must hear it.

In the Jonah example, Jonah repents and prays to discover his everlasting at-one-ment. In the example of the man at Bethesda, the man is not searching or repenting, but the Christ still reaches him to let him know of his everlasting at-one-ment … and the man listens. These are two very different illustrations of how “Divine Love corrects and governs man.” (cit. S12, 6:3)

Mary Baker Eddy explains that “Jesus healed sickness and sin by one and the same metaphysical process.” (cit. S21, 210:16) As Christ Jesus corrected the false belief that man could be separated from Love, people experienced healing. And people experienced healing as they felt the Christ message that they were not sinful, they were not separated from Love. Starting with perfection—our at-one-ment and sinlessness—results in immediate healing.

SECTION 5: An Unknown Woman finds perfection

The fifth section contains the account of the unknown woman who washes Christ Jesus’ feet in the Pharisees house. Bible scholars generally agree that this is an unknown “woman in the city.” Mary Baker Eddy describes her as “this woman (Mary Magdalene, as she has since been called).” (SH 362:7-12)

For me, it is especially inspiring that she was an “unknown woman.” This indicates that society considered the woman unworthy and inadequate of even having a name. Perhaps some of us can relate to having moments of feeling unknown and forgotten. Perhaps we believe somehow that society has overlooked us, or that we are insignificant. Maybe we have moments of feeling like we just don’t matter, like we’re not good enough, our moment has passed, that everyone else is more important, or that we don’t have a purpose. This feeling of unworthiness can seem to affect our whole identity. Feeling unknown can feel like “everlasting punishment.”

Feeling “unknown” is a sin. And it can be healed. We are all worthy. No one is unknown to God. Mind knows all. The perfect Parent never forgets a child. No one is forgotten or neglected by the all-knowing Mind and the infinitely tender Love. As we read in the book of 1st Timothy, Christ Jesus’ mission was to help us all overcome sin—”This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (cit. B14, 1 Timothy 1:15) In other words, Christ Jesus came into this world to show that we are all known by our divine Parent.

In the case of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet, her sin was healed as she found her worthiness, her wholeness, her perfection, her at-one-ment. In her case, which is much different than Jonah or the man at the pool of Bethesda, she reached out for Christ-love. She thoughtfully prepared with oil and everything she needed to wash Christ Jesus’ feet. She went into the Pharisee’s house even though she knew she could be laughed at and thrown out. And she was willing to kneel and wash Christ Jesus’ feet in front of all those distinguished guests. What humility! And this humility was met with grace and love. The woman’s “famished affections” were fed by grace—God’s unconditional love. (cit. S28, 17:4-7)

I think we all love this woman even if scholars cannot agree on her name. We know that she is divinely loved and that she is not forgotten or unknown. And this is true for us too. “Love is reflected in love.” (cit. S28, p17:4-7)

The account of the so-called unknown woman finding her worthiness at the feet of Christ makes up the first four pages of the chapter on “Christian Science Practice,” a chapter that instructs us how to apply Christian Science for healing. Perhaps this indicates that humility and worthiness is key to all healing.

SECTION 6: PRaise the source of everlasting JOY

Jonah, the man at Bethesda, and the unknown woman each show us different paths to overcoming “everlasting punishment.” Each of these three may have felt like they were suffering in the metaphorical belly of the whale. Jonah repented and atoned. The man at Bethesda listened to Christ-love calling to him. And the so-called unknown woman went to Christ in humility. The Bible is full of examples of the ways in which we can each find our at-one-ment, our freedom from everlasting punishment. The unfolding lesson of the Bible is of our divine Parent’s unconditional love that corrects and governs. As the Psalmist writes, “the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” (cit. B18, Psalms 100:5)

We may not fully understand the whole of Christ-love’s message right away, but we can know, “Progress is born of experience.” (cit. S29, 296:4-9) This does not mean we need an age-d thought to know divine Love. No. In fact, we need childlikeness. As Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, — this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.” (cit. S30, p323:32-4) We are the children of God, not the adults of God.

We can all find our perfection, our perfect at-one-ment with divine Love. Because it is already true. Our perfection is already true. We are already free of “everlasting punishment.” Our prayer is not freeing us from everlasting punishment, it is discovering that we are already free. Our prayer brings us into harmony with the fact of our perfect at-one-ment and sinlessness. A material or limited perspective cannot block or interrupt the perfect relationship between child and Parent. As Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The calm, strong currents of true spirituality, the manifestations of which are health, purity, and self-immolation, must deepen human experience, until the beliefs of material existence are seen to be a bald imposition, and sin, disease, and death give everlasting place to the scientific demonstration of divine Spirit and to God’s spiritual, perfect man.” (cit. S31, 99:23)

Amen.


Please join us each week for a 7pm CDT Hymn Sing! You can sing along with CedarS host musicians and hundreds of worldwide friends hymns that you all request. Click here for a link and fuller details.

Invite family, church and other friends and even neighbors to join us by Zoom EVERY week at 7pm Central Time for CedarS Sunday Hymn Sings. (A precious prelude precedes each sing at 6:45pm Central Daylight-savings Time (CDT.) We encourage singing along in Zoom’s gallery view to share the joy of seeing dear ones in virtual family-church reunions that bless all generations.

To protect privacy and copyrights, these “brief, but spectacular” sessions are NOT recorded. So, calibrate your time-zone clocks, mark your calendars, and remind friends, so that no one misses any of these inspiring, weekly reminders of our precious, spiritual oneness with each other and with our ever-loving, Father-Mother God who owns and embraces us all!

Lovingly singing prayers and praise to God for 30 minutes each Sunday is such a warm, “Welcome Home” tradition to bless the start of each week with joyous, peaceful GRACE. (Our 2021 theme.) We have loved singing-in this grace with longtime as well as first-time friends—not only from ALL 50 of the United States, but also from 21 other countries! So far, our “Hymn Sing family” has clicked or dialed-in from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, England, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Scotland, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, as well as from each of the United States! In the universal language of divine Love, thestill, small voice’ of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe’s remotest bound.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 559:8–10)


CLICK below for more APPLICATION IDEAS for this Lesson from CedarS-team:


Here are some areas where financial support is needed to bless in very meaningful ways to thousands of dear ones served by CedarS:

  • ENDOWMENT GIFTS to help cover CedarS camperships and operations are being MATCHED up to $200,000/year ($1-MILLION total)!
  • And, always needed and welcome are UNRESTRICTED & OTHER MAINTENANCE AND HERD SUPPORT GIFTS! We send our special thanks in advance for clicking here to electronically share your tax-deductible support. It’s especially needed during this reduced-income period to help “keep our oil lamps burning.”
  • Here’s our camp office address to MAIL your gift to:
    The CedarS Camps Office, 410 Sovereign Court #8, Ballwin, MO 63011
  • or call CedarS team at 636-394-6162 (Gay, Kim or Jennifer) to share a credit card gift.
  • CedarS is a not-for-profit, 501-C-3 organization with a Federal ID # 44-0663883.
American Camp Association

MAIN OFFICE
(November - May)
410 Sovereign Court #8
Ballwin, MO 63011
(636) 394-6162

CAMP OFFICE
(Memorial Day Weekend - October)
19772 Sugar Dr.
Lebanon, MO 65536
(417) 532-6699

Welcome back, campers! Spaces are still available.

CedarS Camps

Back
to top