The account is brief, but tells so much. As Christ Jesus passed through the town of Jericho, a man named Zacchæus was eager to see him. Zacchæus was a “publican,” a class of individuals who collected taxes for the Roman government and often charged people more than was really owed, for their own personal gain. But despite his character, this man was eager to get a glimpse of Jesus, climbing up into a tree so he could see him.
Jesus must have sensed spiritually Zacchæus’ readiness for a transformation, because he called him down from the tree, saying he was to stay at Zacchæus’ house that night. Without Jesus’ speaking a word of correction or rebuke, Zacchæus willingly acknowledged his greed and dishonest practices. Responding joyfully, he said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” Jesus replied, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (see Luke 19:1–10).
Zacchæus experienced a profound change of heart that day, one that seemed to happen in a moment. It was undoubtedly impelled by the pure, divine consciousness from which the Savior beheld this man’s true identity as God’s child, and by Zacchæus’ own readiness for progress. This spiritual regeneration purified his thoughts and renovated his character. In greater or lesser degree, this is something we all need.
In answer to the question “Do you believe in change of heart?” Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, begins by saying, “We do believe, and understand—which is more—that there must be a change from human affections, desires, and aims, to the divine standard, ‘Be ye therefore perfect;’ ….” She continues: “The human affections need to be changed from self to benevolence and love for God and man; changed to having but one God and loving Him supremely, and helping our brother man. This change of heart is essential to Christianity, and will have its effect physically as well as spiritually, healing disease” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, pp. 50–51).
What heals sickness is a spiritualization of thought—a change from materialistic thoughts and motives to the assimilation of more spiritual goodness and love. This is not an emotional change, an emotional committing to Truth. Nor is it achieved merely through human determination. It comes through Christ, and our receptivity to Christ.
The Christ is eternally present, speaking continuously to human consciousness and manifesting the will of God. The Christ pursues whatever is unlike God—unlike Truth, Love, and Spirit—uncovers it, and compels its destruction, as it did with Zacchæus.
A heart united in the love of spiritual truth feels Truth’s healing power and Love’s benevolence for all.
We all have areas of thought that need transforming. Selfishness is one example. We’re not always aware of the degree to which selfishness characterizes our thoughts until we encounter one who radiates unselfed love for others and we feel our own spiritual lack—or until we begin, through prayer and study of the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings, to recognize this need for regeneration. Selfishness gets in the way of spiritual perception, and therefore in the way of healing, because it keeps us from expressing the love of divine Love. Such true, spiritual love heals, because it knows each one’s spiritual perfection.
As we become receptive to the Christ, we feel more and more the urgings of divine Love claiming us as its own, causing us to express the love that is native to our true individuality. Moments in which we act or think selfishly no longer satisfy us but grieve us, and we long to be better. We desire to give of ourselves in helping others. We feel the impulsion to help humanity through prayer. We increasingly feel and perceive each one’s spiritual goodness.
Through this transforming action of the Christ, we not only learn that selfishness is wrong; we also begin to see that selfishness is no part of our real identity or the true identity of anyone else. We see that we are all children of the same Father, God. Perhaps we even begin to feel something of the love indicated in one of Mary Baker Eddy’s poems: “Father, where Thine own children are, / I love to be” (Poems, p. 13).
The change of heart we all need is the ongoing purification of all corners of human thought and character. Hardness must yield to kindness and patience, self-will to meekness, thoughtlessness to sensitivity, a personal sense of others to a more impersonal affection for all. We must be patient with ourselves, but also honest with ourselves, in striving daily for this important transformation.
“Teach me thy way, O Lord,” prayed the Psalmist, “I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psalms 86:11). A heart united in the love of spiritual truth feels Truth’s healing power and Love’s benevolence for all. Such a heart is more confident of the reality of Spirit, more trusting of God’s unfailing care. Anyone who has healed a friend, a relative, or a patient through prayer knows that it’s not words that heal but the deeply felt perception that the individual is truly spiritual and harmonious, and always embraced in divine Love.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy writes: “To ascertain our progress, we must learn where our affections are placed and whom we acknowledge and obey as God. If divine Love is becoming nearer, dearer, and more real to us, matter is then submitting to Spirit. The objects we pursue and the spirit we manifest reveal our standpoint, and show what we are winning” (p. 239).
What we are winning is the peace of spiritual goodness and the dominion of spiritual understanding. And we are moving forward each day to better healing. All through the change of heart impelled by Christ.
David C. Kennedy
Access more great content like this
Welcome to JSH-Online, the home of the digital editions of The Christian Science Journal, Sentinel, and Herald. We hope you enjoy the content that has been shared with you. To learn more about JSH-Online visit our Learn More page or Subscribe to receive full access to the entire archive of these periodicals, and to new text and audio content added daily.