This week's Bible Lesson about God as Love has several themes running through it. When I first found Christian Science one of its strongest appeals was that it matched up with my instinctive belief that God is a loving Parent. To me, He was always the Good Shepherd of the 23rd Psalm. It was such a thrill to discover Mrs. Eddy's spiritual interpretation of that Psalm in Science and Health. God loves me as His own cherished child, unconditionally, with kindness and great tenderness. I certainly love Him back.
God forgives. This Lesson gives three examples from the Gospels of God's forgiveness. We should obey His laws not from a fear of punishment but because we understand that they are good and right. Sometimes, many times, this calls for a change of heart, a re-formation of behavior and belief. It isn't enough to be genuinely sorry for wrong doing, you must not repeat the offense. Jesus forgives when he heals but he makes that point very clear.
When the scribes and Pharisees thrust a woman caught in the act of adultery before him and demand that he pass judgement on her, they are hoping to have something they can use against him. So in this case Jesus is not only dealing with the woman who has been accused, but with himself as being accused. The accusers had no legal right to condemn either of them. Jesus found the perfect way to challenge their right to condemn her and claim his own right not to do so. Brilliant. May we all find such a peaceful and blessed answer to turn away wrath. They not only left off their attempt, their eyes were opened to their own behavior. Jesus told the woman her sin had been forgiven - giving in to a desire that should have waited until she and her betrothed were married - but told her she was not to do this again.
In the second story, Jesus is a guest of Simon the Pharisee. During dinner, held in a public place, a woman approaches the couch where he is reclining and begins to wash his feet with her tears, dry them with her hair, and anoint them with costly oil. Jesus must have seen into her heart and understood what was behind this very public action. Simon only saw a sinner and chose to continue to condemn her as such. Jesus shows him by a simple story how the one who is forgiven much is the one who has loved God much. This woman showed her love and gratitiude by those humble acts, common courtesies Simon had neglected to provide. He assures the woman that her sins have in fact been forgiven.
A third story is about an incident where four friends brought a man to Jesus for healing. The man was paralyzed as a result of the life style he had chosen. He was a sinner and felt he deserved what happened to him. But his friends obviously loved this man enough to let his cot down through the roof tiles so Jesus could heal him. And he did. He addresses him as Son, surely not his own son, so he must have been identifying him as God's son. He, too, is told that his sins are forgiven. Had Jesus seen into this man's heart the way he had seen into the Magdelene's? Was there true repentance and a willingness to reform? The man was healed, released from that paralyzed state and free to go home. A place he probably had been denied by his family for his actions.
Later this week I will write about another instance of forgiveness in the Lesson, Ananaias and Paul. Do you believe there is an unforgiveable sin or sinner? Holding that thought can only harm you. Choose instead to see as Jesus saw, the man of God's creating. Each of us has to work out our own salvation but we do not want to be dragging around condemnation and hardness of heart. Then it is up to the one who has committed the wrong to find their own reformation and renewel. But we have purified our thought and caught a clearer glimpse of divine Love.