Criticism, Grace, and Order

At first conspicuous only for zeal, Paul of Tarsus became notable for good sense and practical wisdom. His letters are interspersed with epigrams and precepts expressing these qualities. For instance, he said, "Let all things be done decently and in order." These words he wrote to a church; they apply to church members, either collectively or individually. Be decent to everybody, and be orderly in everything. These are good counsels for all people.

We Christian Scientists virtually promised to be considerate in all our human relations when we asked for church membership and subscribed to Article VIII, Section 1, of the By-Laws. This provision of our Church Manual, besides having the effect of a promise, has also the force of our Leader's earnest and tender persuasion. For these reasons, none of us can afford to forfeit the aid of its guidance. In particular, nobody who has promised to heed this By-Law, and who hears it read every fourth or fifth Sunday, can excuse himself if he fails to distinguish between criticisms which reflect "the sweet amenities of Love" and criticisms which amount to condemning or judging erroneously. It is an evident application of this carefully formulated rule that all Christian Scientists should prayerfully and watchfully observe the distinction between criticisms which are helpful and those which are merely censorious. Then, if a member is uncertain as to his duty in a given situation, he has for his guidance these further words in our Leader's writings (No and Yes, P.8)—"silence whenever it can substitute censure."

Not only did Paul regard decency in human relations as one of the Christian graces, but he also used the word "grace" as having a particular meaning. So here is a convenient place to answer inquiries about his use or uses of this word.

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Protection through Reflection
April 12, 1930

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