Repentance: reforming the heart
Jill Gooding, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher who lives in Ripley, Surrey, England, was the guest for this live chat on JSH-Online.com. This excerpt has been edited for publication and includes only a few of the questions she answered. To listen to the whole chat, go to sentinel.christianscience.com/chat/repentance.
I have found that sorrow for wrongdoing isn’t enough to guarantee that the wrongdoing will not happen again. What repentance will guarantee that the particular wrong will not be repeated?
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In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes the three steps that need to be taken for a change in character to be permanent: “Through repentance, spiritual baptism, and regeneration, mortals put off their material beliefs and false individuality” (p. 242). So it’s not just repentance. It’s followed by “spiritual baptism” and “regeneration.”
To repent is to change our thinking. Spiritual baptism is the purification of thought and life. And the third one, regeneration, is the act of reforming into a new and better state. If we want the full fruitage of that first step of repentance, it has to be followed by spiritual baptism and regeneration. And when thinking is changed, that’s enough. Once you know that two and two are four, you can’t go back to believing they are five.
Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourself, and yet, that is the first place to start—by seeing ourself the way God sees us.
I find it a bit confusing that in Christian Science, we don’t think of ourselves as sinners who will be punished by God, because Christian Science teaches that in reality there is no sin. But we all have things we want to and need to let go of, and these may include sinful acts.
This is a perennial question, and yet, it’s a very key one. I think it stems from the two accounts of creation in the Bible. In the real and true account of creation in Genesis 1, there is no sin. But, in the second account, which is of Adam and Eve, there is a dream of sin that appears very real. In the universe of God’s creating, there is no sin, but in the material dream account it appears that there is. We have to choose which creation we want to live in. Mrs. Eddy says in the Christian Science textbook, “… the human self must be evangelized” (Science and Health, p. 254), and we do this by being obedient to what Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). That is, we know that the true account is the first chapter of Genesis—and that truth makes us free.
How can one forgive oneself for a failed marriage, a lack of friendships, unstable employment, an inconsistent career, and honest mistakes that got a bit out of control? I’m having a hard time loving myself in light of these past, and a few ongoing, mistakes.
Sometimes the hardest person to forgive is ourself, and yet, that is the first place to start—by seeing ourself the way God sees us. God is not seeing us as guilty of a wrong marriage, of bad employment, of a difficult situation, or as sick or sinful. God is seeing us as His ideas. And it’s interesting that, again, this sense of guilt is not in the first account of Genesis. There is no guilt in the first account. God’s man is never guilty.
How can we get over a sense of lost time and opportunity because of past mistakes, even though there has been substantial or even complete repentance and reformation in the present?
This is the belief that we have been born into matter, that we have a past history, a present history, and we will have a future history as a mortal. Man has never been born into matter—never became a mortal. It’s never been part of man, and that, to me, is one of the most helpful things to take away something that seems to have happened in the past that somehow is trying to corrupt the present. If we can see that we have never been born into matter, that we can never die out of matter, and that we don’t live in matter, then that false sense of history, which really needs to be expunged, will not plague us or cause us problems in the present.
Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.
Can repentance help heal heart disease? Are there spiritual ideas that destroy a belief in a diseased heart? How do we reform the heart?
Mrs. Eddy has a very thoughtful answer to that in Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896. She answers the question “Do you believe in change of heart?” (p. 50). Again, to repent is to change one’s thinking. We’re not putting a mechanical device on a piece of matter that we appear to carry around inside ourselves. It’s a change from that sense of heart, to the great heart of Love. That’s the only heart there is, and we all have it. It’s beating for you, and for me, and for everyone. So the heart needs to be seen not as a mechanical thing that’s keeping everything alive but as a sense of divine Love. When we change our thinking, when we’re seeing more love, expressing more love, that will heal what the world says is heart disease because there is only one heart, the heart of divine Love.