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Time to “Remodel!” — Shift your Paradigm From the Human to the Divine!

Application ideas for the Christian Science Bible Lesson on

“Everlasting Punishment” for April 30-May 6, 2007

Craig L.  Ghislin, C.S.  of Bartlett, Illinois

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 (as well as friends) see and demonstrate the great value of daily study of the Christian Science Bible lessons year-round, not just at camp!     You can sign up free to have these mets  emailed to you in English by Monday or in French or Spanish by Wednesday: CHECK  FOR A FREE TRANSLATION of this weekly “met” offered in FRENCH by Pascal Bujard of Switzerland AND NOW in SPANISH by Ana Arcioni of Spain. 

In the 1970’s a popular television character’s signature line was, “God ‘ll get ya for that.”  For centuries the majority of monotheistic religions have attempted to deter immoral, selfish behavior with the threat of eternal punishment.  The Eastern philosophy of karma (ethical consequences to one’s actions that determine the circumstances of the future) has been popularized into the phrase, “what goes around comes around.”   The human propensity toward illicit behavior prompts an equal yearning to see things set right.  We would be hard pressed to imagine that the tragic evil that takes innocent lives such as in recent shootings and terrorist attacks do not merit some sort of severe consequence.  Knowing that even human laws are flawed, there is still the hope that, in the end, God will correct things.  From this desire emerged the religious paradigm or model that views man as a sinner, and God as the judge, harsh or merciful as the case may require.  But this model views God as behaving in a very human way, with vengeance and retribution.  Furthermore, losing faith in both human and divine justice has lead to scofflaws, vigilante justice, and terrorism.  Ultimately, the traditional paradigm of justice is a “no win” situation. 


Does God punish sin?  Is man a sinner?  Is he doomed to everlasting punishment?  Will God “get us” for the infractions we commit?  The Golden Text is the first step in our paradigm shift from the human to the divine.  It assures us of God’s loving-kindness and that His patience is inexhaustible.  Rather than doling out everlasting punishment, God showers us with “everlasting love.”


The Responsive Reading tells us of the prodigal son who represents those who turn their backs on the law of God.  The prodigal wants all the benefits of sonship but on his own terms.  All the benefits could have been enjoyed in abundance at home (within the law), but cut off from the source, his supply runs out.  In famine, “his pleasures pall, his friends prove false, his animal indulgences fail to satisfy him” (Dummelow).  Realizing that his father’s servants are better off than he is, his model of what would bring him satisfaction shifts and he returns home.  In telling this story, Jesus prompts his listeners to shift their model not only about sinners, but also, about the nature of God.  The father represents God.  God doesn’t react like a human parent might.  The majority of human fathers might be pretty upset with the wayward son, but the divine solution for sin is quite different from the human.  Here, the father eagerly awaits his son’s return, runs to meet his misguided son, smothers him with kisses, and restores his full status.  God is Love.  None-the-less, sin needs to be dealt with.  This story furnishes the template for a new paradigm.  Sin is destroyed but the son is saved.  The father doesn’t punish-he loves.  The rest of the Lesson expands on this. 


Section 1:  God Is of Purer Eyes than to Behold Evil

As noted above, the human sense of justice and retribution is vastly different from the divine.  How does sin and punishment fit in with a God who is Love?  If God is all-good, can He have any thing to do with sin?  In Isaiah (B1) the prophet represents God as reaching out with forgiveness.  No matter how bad one’s sins are, they shall be cleansed away.  The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible ponders the rationale to God’s forgiveness of sin.  “Men have no right to stand in the presence of God with guilt on them.  How then can men be free of sin?  The only possibility is God’s forgiveness of it” [paraphrased].  But his forgiveness is only fully experienced by humanity as the result of repentance and obedience.  The psalmist (B2) remembers that God has always held him up even when he was about to fall off the path.  “He gave himself up for lost but the divine love had hold of him all the time” (The Abingdon Bible Commentary).  In citation B3 the psalmist is counting on consistent protection from God based on past experience.  God’s changeless character is filled with grace.  This encourages us.  Knowing and trusting God’s love and forgiveness causes us to yearn for a continuous relationship with Him.  Satisfaction comes not from sin, but from waking to the true vision of man as God’s likeness.


Mrs. Eddy understood clearly that God is Love.  As such, there is no reason to ask for more or to remind God of His duty. (S1)  As mentioned earlier, most traditional theologies operate on the paradigm that God knows about sin, allows man to do it, and then punishes man for it.  All of this is brought into question when considering the true nature of God. (S2)  It just isn’t logical that God would have anything at all to do with sin.  “He is of purer eyes than to behold evil.” (S3)  This is a giant leap from traditional theology.  The mortal sinner is not the man God made. (S4)  God’s man is “sinless and eternal.” (S5)  Now does that give us license to do whatever we want because God’s “man is incapable” of sin?  No way.  The mortal must be acknowledged to be a sinner.  But God’s creation is not mortal.  If God didn’t create his child capable of sin, then we must act accordingly.  We need to shift our paradigm of who God is and who we are and then prove it in our lives. 


Section 2:  God Is Not Appeased By Suffering

Although it has been called blasphemy to dare to question God, this section shows us that reasoning through our understanding of God can be a good thing.  It can be hard to reconcile the beautiful ancient blessing in Numbers (B5) with hell fire and brimstone.  The blessing confirms God’s nature.  “…His name is his character.  And his name is upon those who find in him their blessing, their joy, and their peace” (Abingdon).  Abraham had a hard time accepting the paradigm that the righteous would perish with the wicked and that God would destroy innocent lives. (B6)  In ancient times it was acceptable to wipe out whole families for the infraction of one individual.  Was it possible that the “judge of all the earth” would act on a human model?  Would the innocent perish with the guilty?  Abraham’s approach to God is so sweet that one’s heart cannot help but to go out to him.  As it turned out, the city was destroyed, but the righteous people were saved.  God did not punish the innocent with the guilty.  As Mrs. Eddy writes, “It is evil that dies; good dies not.” (S8)   In context, the passage from Ezekiel (B7) challenges the paradigm that punishes the innocent for guilt by association.  It compels each generation to free themselves from the inherited evils of their ancestors.  Israel’s “fate is determined neither by their guilty ancestors nor by their own guilty past.  God is merciful, and will, if they repent, rejoice to pardon them.” (Ibid.)  If they repent.


Abraham held strongly to a higher paradigm of divine justice.  He understood God to be a preserver not a destroyer. (S6)   Page 22 of Science and Health, (S7) contains one of the most compelling statements ever made.  “Whosoever believeth that wrath is righteous or that divinity is appeased by human suffering, does not understand God.”  WOW!  That’s a major shift.  It seems so much a part of our culture to see the bad guys get their due.  But God’s ways are higher than our ways.  Divine justice requires reformation.  Once sin is destroyed, the debt for sin is cancelled.  God doesn’t kill a man to make him better.  God destroys the sin, and saves the man.  Again, “It is evil that dies; good dies not” (S8).  Of course if one is determined to identify with sin, the miserable consequence will continue.  The only way to get out of the misery is to get out of the sin. (S9)   We can’t be threatened into being good.  Threats only serve to repress behavior.  Behavior is the tip of the iceberg being buoyed up by false belief systems.  Merely repressing behavior is like pushing an iceberg under the ocean surface.  Once the pressure is let off, the whole thing pops right back up.  The need is to change the paradigm- the underlying belief system.  The true way out of sin is to reason correctly and to learn to love goodness.  Rather than seeing ourselves as lost sinners and living like it, we have to admit our likeness to God.  Doing so will shut the door on sin’s inevitable end (death) and open the door to life. (S10) 


Section 3: Meaningful Prayer Exchanges Self-Centered Thinking For God-Centered Thinking

So what do you do if you want to be saved from sin?  Cry out for it like the psalmist did. (B8)  Trust in the saving nature of God’s loving grace.  But the request isn’t enough on its own.  Prayer must be turned into action.  There are some handy hints in B9: be humble, pray, seek God, and turn from the wicked ways.  God is with you in this endeavor.  His grace abounds toward you. (B10)  The blessings we receive give us the opportunity to bless others.  When thought is turned away from oneself then one is free to share and give to others.  Sin is self-centered.  A shift toward actively and unselfishly loving others helps to turn us from sin.  If you don’t think you can do it, shift your thought toward God.  His grace will provide support.


Mrs. Eddy must have felt unselfishness was important.  It’s mentioned as a key element of prayer in the first sentence of the first chapter of our textbook. (S11)  A sentence later we are reminded that overcoming selfishness requires work.  Mrs. Eddy strongly cautions that prayer should not be used as a method of canceling sin. (S12)  In other words, sin isn’t removed simply by praying.  An awful lot of criminals pray regularly.  God doesn’t forgive us just because we pray.  Thought must shift to change one’s life.  Praying to get off the hook while we continue to sin could in fact lead into worse trouble.  Divine Love corrects man through reformation -exchanging the bad for the good.  Believing that praying for forgiveness is enough makes prayer a “safety valve for wrong doing.” (S13)  It gives a false sense of security based on words without conviction.  Interpreter’s points out the danger of thinking that prayer alone can make one righteous.  “It breeds intolerance, spiritual superiority, and the tendency to equate one’s own enemies with the enemies of God.”  Mrs. Eddy saw the same danger.  Effective prayer changes one’s life.  She wrote, “What we most need is the prayer…for growth in grace… .” (S14)  Such prayer needs to be expressed in good deeds.  The psalmist cried out for help.  We too, need to long for holiness and prove our sincerity through our actions. 


Section 4:  Exchanging Exclusion For Inclusion

The Pharisees fell into the trap of “moral superiority.”  They severely criticized Jesus for having any contact at all with those whom they called “sinners.” (B12)  They were especially perturbed by the fact that Jesus had meals with undesirables.  Having a meal was considered an intimate form of contact, and J.  R.  Dummelow calls Jesus’ eating with publicans, “an act of extraordinary boldness.”  Jesus was more concerned with active love and charity than with ritual observances.  Jesus did not condone ostracism.  He promoted inclusion of all who were willing to receive him.  If you have ever been on either side of social or religious exclusion, you should know that it has no place in true Christianity.  In the parable of the lost pieces of silver (B13) it is worth noting that unlike the lost sheep who were outside the house (the church or religious community), the coins were inside the house.  The coins represent members of the church who have fallen from grace.  The old paradigm was to shun misguided ones.  But Jesus considers the wayward members of the church as valuable.  In the parable a candle needs to be lit and the house swept to find them.  It takes effort to find the lost coins.  You wouldn’t go through the trouble of finding them just to throw them out.  In the same way, the search to recover the lost should be diligent and great joy should follow their recovery.  As you light up every area of your life this week, why not rejoice to bring the lost and ostracized into your loving fellowship.


Jesus didn’t accept material paradigms.  He looked beneath the material surface to the spiritual cause. (S15)  Rather than accepting sickness and sin as part of life, he offered a model far beyond anything known before. (S16)  Of course he was setting this example for the Pharisees too, but their pride made them refuse to see it.  They completely misjudged Jesus. (S17)  Shunning sinners did nothing to help them.  Have you ever tried to tell somebody his faults?  Has anyone ever told you some of yours?  Either way, the process is smoother if the spirit of love is present. (S18)  We want to “win them back again.” (Hymn 315)  We don’t overcome evil with evil.  We overcome evil with good.  The third tenet (S19) presents a paradigm far different than offered by traditional theology.  Sin is forgiven as it is destroyed; and replacing the material view with the spiritual shows evil to be unreal.  But suffering will continue as long as one identifies with sin.  For sin to be forgiven a shift in thought and action must take place. 


Section 5:  Suffering Is Eliminated As Sin Is Removed

In Jesus’ healing of the palsy (B14) much has been made of the fact that Jesus performed this healing in the face of great opposition.  In some ways it has been seen as proof of Jesus’ divine authority, which the Pharisees lacked.  Jesus represented a new model of authority.  Additionally, in this case we can see the correlation between sickness and sin.  This man was suffering because of some sin.  Jesus detected it and proceeded to remove the error.  The Pharisees were appalled by Jesus’ claim to forgive sin.  Anyone could claim to forgive sin.  There was apparently no way to prove or disprove the claim.  Jesus obliged them and put himself on the line so to speak by commanding the man to rise and walk, and he held firmly to his authority to forgive sin.  In this case sin was the root of the problem.  This sin was destroyed and forgiven, and the man was healed  

instantly.  The roof repair and Pharisees’ paradigm-remodeling probably took a little longer.  (B14)


Mrs. Eddy followed up on the import of the connection between sin and suffering.  Not every sickness is the result of sin.  But sin does bring suffering.  We are taught in Christian Science to follow Jesus’ healing method. (S20)  Jesus taught that sickness and sin are healed by the power of God. (S21)  There is no accommodation in the practice of Christian Science for indulging in sin.  God’s perfect children we are, but it is incumbent upon us to prove it by mastery of human propensities.  And, it’s so much easier to catch and correct problems when they are just beginning!  (S23)  On page 40 in Science and Health (S24) Mrs. Eddy states very clearly that the penalty is removed by first removing the sin.  This is our Leader’s sense of God’s method of destroying sin.  The shift from traditional thought here is that whereas traditionally, punishment for sin was thought to be ongoing, Mrs. Eddy found that once the sin was destroyed, the punishment was over.


Section 6:  Transition Complete – Omnipotent Love Overrules All Evil

So do you still suppose God exacts punishment and retribution upon His creation?  Nope.  No lighting bolts here.  Be joyful that “God has taken away thy judgments.” (B15)  Judgments in this verse means, “opponents.” (Abingdon)  God’s law removes anything that would stand in the way of our obedience.  God’s compassion never fails. (B16)  There is a loving and loyal covenant between God and His people.  Our judge doesn’t condemn us.  He saves us. (B17)  God’s character “remains consistent and reliable throughout all time.” (B18) (Interpreter’s) 


Eventually, all sin will be destroyed and songs of rejoicing will fill the heavens.  At that time there will be no accuser (S25).  Panoply refers to complete armor.  Clothed in the complete armor of Love, we will be out of the reach of hatred and condemnation. (S26)  But remember, we have to put on the armor.  Without it we become vulnerable.  When we truly understand God, human ills of all sorts dissolve.  In such a spiritual state there is justice, peace, safety, and no curse. (S27)  Suffering and punishment are finished.  There’s nothing left to do but glorify God. (S28)  That’s a shift worth striving for!

Camp Director’s Note: The above sharing is the latest in a 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 citations referenced (i.e.  B1 and S28) from this week’s Bible Lesson in the “met” (metaphysical application ideas) are taken from the King James Version of the Bible (B1-24) and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. (S1-30) The Bible and Science and Health are the ordained pastor of the Churches of Christ, Scientist. The Bible Lesson is the sermon read in Christian Science church services throughout the world. 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.  Spirituality is your innate estate that connects you moment by moment with God. (See S&H 258:30) Christ is the gift of light that Jesus gave. This Christ light of spiritual understanding comes with and reveals infinite blessings. So, have fun unwrapping and cherishing your very special, spiritual gift(s)!   Then, wherever you are, share them with all as big blessings that make the Infinite difference!
Warren Huff, Camp Director (636) 394-6162
The weekly Metaphysical Newsletter is provided at no charge to the 1,200 campers and staff blessed each summer at CedarS, as well as to CedarS alumni, families and friends who have requested it.   However, current and planned giving contributions are a big help and are greatly appreciated in defraying the costs of running this service and of providing needed camperships, programs and operations support.  Click  for more about how you can provide support online or to get information or discuss privately how to make a special gift to help perpetuate CedarS work.
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