The promise of everlasting love

For the Lesson titled “Everlasting Punishment” from April 28 - May 4, 2014

This week’s Christian Science Bible Lesson, titled “Everlasting Punishment,” begins with the promise of God’s “everlasting kindness” (Isaiah 54:8, Golden Text). The phrase “everlasting punishment” comes from Matthew 25:46. However, the Lesson helps us clarify the concept of everlasting punishment and makes clear that a punishing God is a false understanding of what God is. Taking a closer look at the Gospel of Matthew shows the nature of God to be infinite Love, and that we may be inflicting punishment on ourselves when we choose not to practice love and forgiveness ourselves. 

There are two passages from Matthew that explain how we can respond to God’s loving nature and experience God’s unconditional love more. In chapter 9:2–8 (citation 15), we find the story of Jesus healing a man of the palsy, or paralysis. The first thing Jesus said to the paralyzed man was that his sins were forgiven. Receiving criticism that only God can forgive, Jesus defended his actions, saying that in fact, he does have the power to forgive. Further, Jesus showed that forgiveness, or getting a sense of pure unconditional love, is imperative to healing. Whether we need to forgive ourselves or others, it is the way we align ourselves with God’s grace. 

Matthew 18:21–33 (citation 17) is along the same line of thought, and reinforces concepts introduced in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5—7), especially the line from the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (6:12). When Peter asks Jesus how many times we should forgive, “seven times?” Jesus corrects him and says, “Seventy times seven” (18:21, 22), implying that even counting would be irrelevant. Following this exchange is a parable of a compassionate king. This king shows compassion on his servant who owes more money than he could ever pay back. But the servant in turn doesn’t show the same compassion toward another servant, who owes him much, much less than he owes the king and orders his debtor thrown in prison. The man doesn’t practice the same forgiveness he is shown, and the king condemns his actions.

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