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PRACTICE THE DIVINE WAY

PRACTICE THE DIVINE WAY
Metaphysical application ideas for the Christian Science quarterly Bible lesson on:

“Love”
from July 25 to 31, 2022

By Craig L. Ghislin, CS of Godfrey, Illinois
craig.ghislincs@icloud.com / (630) 830-8683; cell/text (630) 234-3987

In 1965, radio stations in my hometown of Chicago were playing a song with a simple but poignant message:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love

It’s the only thing of which there is very little…

No, not just for some, but for all.

(Music and lyrics by Burt Bacharach and Hal David)

Today this may seem cheesy. But often the simplest message is the one we need to pay the most attention to.

If we look at the polarization in the world today between nations, political parties, races, genders, etc., we can easily see that what all these conflicting viewpoints lack most is mutual love. We do not have to like or agree with everyone, however, we can practice love and goodwill towards everyone. In fact, we must. If we don’t, solutions to our problems will never be found.

Is this simplistic? Well, Christ Jesus didn’t think so. In fact, his message of mutual love is one of the two key points of his teachings. The first is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbor. Not surprisingly, the simplest and most important directive is also the most difficult to practice. Jesus’ teaching on love changed the religious trajectory of the entire world and continues to do so more than 2,000 years later.

Mutual love remains the key distinguishing feature of Christian identity. The disciple John was one of the main proponents of this teaching. In the Golden Text, we have a phrase known to virtually all Christians:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God;
and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
(I John 4:7 The New King James Version)

Nineteenth-century theologian Albert Barnes (1798-1870) comments:
“The subject is one on which John dwells more than on any other: that of love…the remarkable affection which the Lord Jesus had shown him, seems to have had the effect of giving this grace a special prominence in his points. view of what constitutes true religion.”

Barnes gives three reasons for this.

  1. All true religion has its origin in God.
  2. Real love shows that we have His Spirit, and that we belong to Him.
  3. It assimilates us to God or makes us more like Him.

The Christian concept of love for one another isn’t referring to loving only your friends. That’s a limited, preferential love that plays favorites. The Christian command to love your neighbor means universal love for all mankind. A true Christian love for mankind is the evidence of our love for God. Why is it so important to make this distinction? As philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) explains: “…in loving a friend you really cling to your friend, but in loving your neighbor you cling to God” (Works of Love, p. 76).


This precept is unpacked in the Responsive Reading.  In I John 4:8 we have a statement found in the auditoriums of many Christian Science Churches throughout the world—“God is Love.” Again, Barnes expostulates:

Never was a more important declaration made than this; never was more meaning crowded into a few words than in this short sentence – “God is love.” In the darkness of this world of sin – in all the sorrows that come now upon the race, and that will come upon the wicked hereafter – we have the assurance that a God of infinite benevolence rules over all; …

In verses 11-13, 16, 18 John logically concludes that if God thinks we’re lovable as we are, how much more should we love our own peers? Though we can’t see God with our eyes, we know Him by the presence of love for one another within our hearts. If we abide in love, we are as close as we can get to abiding in God. When once convinced of this, what condition, no matter how extreme can cause us to fear?

The Scriptures tell us, “…perfect love casteth out fear.” The Amplified Bible interprets the passage like this: “…full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of error!”

The following three verses—I John 4:19-2—remind us again that God’s love for us came first. That’s why we have the capacity to reflect that love. But, if we say we love God and we still hate our neighbors, we’re lying to ourselves, and to the world. If we love God, love for mankind follows.


SECTION 1: THE WORLD NEEDS LOVE, AND THE WORLD NEEDS GOD

At first glance, the words in Zephaniah 3: 14, 17 (citation B1) seem to be supportive and encouraging. However, let’s look at the context. The Abingdon Bible Commentary explains that the beginning of the chapter is actually a rebuke to a rebellious Jerusalem who has not listened to her prophets:

“She [Jerusalem] is polluted in that she has not trusted in Jehovah her God but has yielded to the spirit of the age, becoming entangled in international politics, and contenting herself with merely mundane aspirations.” The prophet goes on to talk of “the cruel, insatiable greed of a profligate aristocracy and a corrupt officiary…exploited by [those] who have no innate respect for holy things and who manipulate the ancient social standards entrusted to them for their own gain.”

This description paints a picture not unlike the challenges of our own time. It portrays a people who have strayed from God’s law. Yet still, God promises to save those who turn to Him. How do we know this? Well, not through human reasoning or sense evidence. We know it through an impartation of the Spirit (cit. B2—1Cor. 2:9…). The promises of God’s ongoing protection and mercy are another reminder of the safety that accompanies obedience to His law (cit. B3—Deut. 7:9, 13 (to :)).

The first three citations from Science and Health underscore the allness and Father-Motherhood of divine Love (citations S1—SH 275:6, S2—SH 256:7). “No wisdom but His wisdom; no truth is true, no love is lovely, no life is Life but the divine; no good is, but the good God bestows.” (cit. S3—SH 275:14).

In Citation 4, Science and Health illustrates Love’s tenderness. Even the least spiritual idea is supplied with “might, immortality, and goodness” (cit. S4—SH 518:19-21). Citation S5 (SH 518:19-21) needs to be read very carefully. When the author says, “The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space,” she’s not saying that Love fills a material environment. There is no material environment. There is no matter. Love fills all space because Love is the only “space” we are in. We exist within that space, and in no other.


SECTION 2: LOVE PROVIDES SAFETY FROM PHYSICAL DANGERS

Although the Scriptures often appear to enforce the view that God’s love for us is contingent upon our obedience, the fact is God’s love for us is unconditional and everlasting. Jeremiah encourages us with a brief reminder recounting the historical record of God’s loving care: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn thee” (cit. B4—Jer. 31:3). Not all translations use the word, “drawn.” Some commentators also interpret “drawn” as man being pulled out of the clay, or being rescued from Satan’s hand. The overall idea is that God has taken ongoing responsibility for our safety. Hence, Isaiah’s assurance that we need never fear because God is always with us, or more accurately, because we are always with God (cit. B5—Isa. 41:10, 13).

While it’s doubtful that you, or anyone you know, will ever be thrown into a den of lions, Daniel’s story (cit. B6—Dan. 6:1, 4–7, 9, 11, 13, 15 Know, 16, 19–23, 25–27) has lessons we can relate to.

Most of us know the story well. Instead of just glossing over it, take the time to dig beneath the surface. As you read it ask yourselves:

Have I ever been in a situation where those around me have been jealous of my position or promotion?

Have I ever been treated unfairly?

Have I ever been targeted for my religious beliefs?

Has there ever been a time when someone wanted to do me harm?

Has there ever been a time where it seemed that there was no way out of a situation?

Have I ever allowed myself to be flattered into doing the wrong thing?

Have I ever felt handcuffed by an unjust law?

What “lions” am I facing in my life today?

Would I be willing to break or compromise my principles to avoid condemnation? Or would I stand up for what is right irrespective of the outcome?

This is just the beginning. There are so many issues in this story, both from Daniel’s point of view as well as that of the king. Everyone can relate to one or more of those situations.

Remember, Daniel was targeted because he was good, not because he was bad. His enemies lay a trap that they knew he wouldn’t avoid. Through it all, Daniel remains faithful to God. He doesn’t allow himself to be corrupted. The presidents and princes are attempting to entrap Daniel through a law that effectively would place the king’s decree above God. Despite the wording of the law, even the king himself prays for Daniel’s deliverance.

There are lots of questions to consider here. Proverbs assures us that whatever the circumstance, those who put their trust in the Lord will be safe (cit. B7—Prov. 29:25 whoso).

The citations in this section from Science and Health are self-explanatory. Trusting God, we’ll learn step by step that we can always count on divine Love’s protection. (cit. S6—SH 444:10). Even when the situation seems hopeless God is nearer than ever before (cit. S7—SH 567:3-6 Truth; cit. S9—SH 319:7). There is no simpler promise than this: “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (cit. S10—SH vii:1-2).


SECTION 3: LOVE GIVES GRACE TO SINNERS

Now, as we’ve mentioned, the Scriptures can make it seem like only those who are good, and obedient can have God’s loving protection. So, what hope is there for sinners? Well, Jesus came not to condemn, but to save sinners. St. Paul says, “…sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under the law but under grace.” (cit. B8—Rom. 6:14). Just as God delivers us from physical dangers, He also delivers us from sin. Additionally, God’s law is not the “law which exacts obedience, without giving power to obey; … without providing for the extirpation [rooting out] of evil or the pardon of sin.” We are under grace—“the merciful and beneficent dispensation of the Gospel, that, although it requires the strictest conformity to the will of God, affords sufficient power to be thus conformed; and … has provided grace to help in every time of need” (Adam Clarke c1760-1832).

We all know that there is a steady stream of temptation flowing through our lives. However, we always have a choice. James offers us assurance that if we draw close to God, He will draw close to us. Our task is to keep our hands and hearts clean, and our sight focused on Truth. (cit. B9—James 4:8, 10).

Our case study for this is Zacchaeus. As we know, Zacchaeus isn’t necessarily a bad guy. He’s just really good at being a tax collector for the occupying Romans. Not surprisingly, the Jews don’t like him very much, and consider him a sinner, and a traitor. Be that as it may, he has interest enough in Jesus’ message to climb up a tree to get a glimpse of him, and to accept the Master into his house for dinner. Not only that, but he turns his life completely around and promises compensation to anyone he may have cheated. Figuratively, Jesus passes by each of us every day requesting to dine in our house. Do we even pay attention to this invitation? Do we take the time to acknowledge that the Christ is moving through our lives? Are we willing to answer that call and welcome him in?

While traditional Christianity often emphasizes punishment for sin, in fact, Jesus actually redeems us from sin through love: “Divine Love corrects and governs man.” (cit. S11—SH 6:3 (only)).

Aside from reprimanding religious hypocrisy, Jesus didn’t condemn sinners, or cut them off. He loved them in ways they had never known before. He demonstrated a truer sense of Love… (cit. S12—SH 19:6). Jesus’ message isn’t shallow. He expects us to follow him sincerely, allowing the truth to deeply transform us. Mary Baker Eddy writes that Jesus’ prayers weren’t superficial either. They were, “deep and conscientious protests of Truth, — of man’s … unity with Love” (cit. S13—SH 12:10). Everything Jesus did was to encourage and equip us to exercise our dominion over sin and evil temptations. That means we don’t ever have to fear sin (cit. S14—SH 231:20).

Whether lost in sin, or when journeying out of it, it can seem like a task we have little hope of accomplishing. But the Discoverer of Christian Science had full faith in the power of the Holy Ghost to supply us with everything we need for a victory. It’s not guesswork. Basing our efforts on the divine Principle, Love, we can overcome every challenge with “scientific certainty” (cit. S15—SH 496:15). As Paul told the Romans, grace doesn’t condemn us, it supports us. Some might say that repenting of sin truly is a miracle—a wonder wrought about only by God. It’s true, we can never do it by ourselves, and rather than condemning us, we are saved through grace. “The miracle of grace is no miracle to Love” (cit. S16—SH 494:15 (only)). I can’t think of grace without being reminded of the definition given in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible: “Grace: the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”


SECTION 4: LOVE GIVES US POWER OVER SICKNESS

Up to this point in the Lesson, the emphasis has been on Love’s allness, its ability to protect us from threats, and deliver us from sin. Here we pivot slightly to consider our part in reflecting God’s love. We begin with Love’s healing power. In Luke 9:1, 2 Jesus gives his disciples, “power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases” (cit. B13). But this power is neither attained, nor demonstrated in a vacuum. Healing power requires love expressed by the healer. In Acts 9:32-35 (cit. B14) we see a specific instance of that healing power when Peter heals a man with palsy. Bible citation 15—Acts 5:12 (to ;), confirms that all of the apostles took the command to practice healing seriously.

The Christian Science textbook underscores that you and I should follow Jesus’ healing example as well, noting that Jesus’ commission to his disciples to practice healing is intended for all believers throughout all time (cit. S17—SH 40:25-28; cit. S18—SH 38:10-14). Mary Baker Eddy teaches that unselfed love is the key to receiving this healing power (cit. S19—SH 192:27). The expectation that Christian Scientists practice spiritual healing isn’t made lightly. The author goes so far as to say healing sickness and destroying sin is the “substance of all devotion,” and proof of our love for mankind (cit. S20—SH 241:19-21). As Jesus conferred healing power to his disciples, it was also our Leader’s “weary hope” that all mankind would some day realize divine Love’s healing power (cit. S21—SH 55:16-21).


SECTION 5: LOVE ONE ANOTHER

Here again, Paul’s letter to Timothy reiterates the power of love to destroy fear and furnish us with clarity of mind (cit. B16—II Tim. 1:7 God). It’s safe to say that the most consistent Christian message throughout the centuries has been love for one another (cit. B17—Rom. 12:10). Prior to Jesus’ ministry, religious teachings were often focused on proscriptive laws and restrictions aimed at modifying human behavior. Jesus too, certainly aimed to modify human behavior, but through an entirely different method. Jesus taught that love should determine our behavior. However, once Christianity was established as an organized religion, it didn’t take long for the old way of thinking to resurface. Soon as the young new church became institutionalized, Christianity became just as proscriptive and judgmental as the Jewish law before it. This is why Paul’s letter to the Galatians (cit. B18—Gal. 5:13, 14) has meaning for both the early Christians and us today. Through Jesus’ teachings we have been given liberty from the law—the laws enforced by men. But this liberty does not mean we are free from God’s law. In fact, the new law of loving our neighbor may be even more difficult to follow (cit. B19—I Thess. 4:9 as). Paul and the apostles reiterate the law of loving our neighbor time and again.

Not surprisingly, Mary Baker Eddy also understood and taught that love was the key element in the practice of Christian Science. She writes, “Love for God and man is true incentive in both healing and teaching. Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way…” (cit. S22—SH 454:17-21). That’s about as clear as it gets. Can we imagine a better motive than love? If we want to gauge how we are doing in our Christian journey, we have but to examine “where our affections are placed and whom we acknowledge and obey as God” (cit. S23—SH 239:16).

At this point we may ask ourselves: Am I allowing my life to be transformed by love? Am I looking away from the things of the world to the higher joys of heaven? Am I expressing love to only my family and friends (a preferential love)? Or, am I being loving toward my neighbor as Jesus directed (a spiritual love)?

Kierkegaard provides this astute observation:
“At a distance every man recognizes his neighbor, and yet it is impossible to see him at a distance. If you do not see him so close that you unconditionally before God see him in every man, you do not see him at all.”
(Works of Love, p. 89).

In our current troubled times, we do well to heed what the Leader of the Christian Science movement understood to be the antidote to every war, political division, and problem we face. “With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren…” (cit. S24—SH 469:30-5).  She adds that it is our solemn duty as Christians to have one God, and to love our neighbor (cit. S25—SH 496:5, 13-14).


SECTION 6: A TRUE AIM

The final section sums up our aim: “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace…” (cit. B20—II Cor. 13:11, 14). To be perfect, means to be mature. To be of good comfort means to take this message to heart. To be of one mind, means not to be clones of each other, but to live in an agreeable fashion with one another—to find things that bring us together, rather than divide us. To live in peace means just what it says. All of these directives are summed up in love.

It’s not impossible to live that way. We can do it. For true happiness our aim is to live in accordance with Christ (cit. S26—SH 337:7-10)). How do we do that? We “subordinate the false testimony of the corporeal senses to the facts of Science” (cit. S27—SH 516:4). This simply means to give up our personal sense of things and view ourselves, and others through the eyes of God. We have to remember it’s not up to us to manufacture love, or force the budding bloom of a loving world through laws and restrictions. That won’t work! Rather, we yield up human efforts, and recognize that God’s law is the only law that exists. Our job is to be available to that Love. Remember, that the doctrine of Christian Science isn’t that we can’t be deprived of God. It’s that God cannot be deprived of us! (cit. S28—SH 304:9). The final citation in this Lesson-Sermon states it clearly. “Universal love is the divine way in Christian Science” (cit. S29—SH266:18). Not our way, God’s way!


GEMs of BIBLE-BASED application ideas from COBBEY CRISLER & others are in the works and will HOPEFULLY BE POSTED and SENT soon. Check on CedarS INSPIRATION website, or in your email, if you have  SUBSCRIBED FOR IT on this webpage.


Ken Cooper POETIC POSTLUDE contributions related to this Bible Lesson will ARRIVE LATER IN THE WEEK. When they do arrive, the poems will be POSTED on CedarS INSPIRATION website & be EMAILED TO THOSE WHO SUBSCRIBE FOR THEM HERE.


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