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A deeper love for Jesus, an understanding of Christ

From the Christian Science Sentinel - July 30, 2020

Ever since I was a small child, I loved Jesus. The church my family attended used Bibles that printed all his words in red ink to help them stand out from the other words printed in black, and I loved to find a page with nothing but red words and wrap myself up cozily in these teachings. 

Often, I would share what I found in these Bible words in red with my friends. Neighbors would complain to my mother that I was “preaching” to my playmates and teaching them to pray. But I just had to tell somebody about the Sermon on the Mount, “the Great Commission,” and Jesus’ parables. If there was no one around, my teddy bears proved to be a receptive audience! One of my favorite Christian hymns was one that also appears as Hymn 414 in the Christian Science Hymnal: 

I love to tell the story
   Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and his glory,
   Of Jesus and his love. 
(Katherine Hankey)

Our church taught that Jesus and God are one and the same, but despite my love for Jesus, this doctrine never made much sense to me. The words in red contained statements such as “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) and “In that day ye shall ask me nothing. . . . Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23). 

At age fourteen I read the whole Bible from cover to cover. When I got to the New Testament, it was the first time I encountered Jesus’ teachings within the context of his healing ministry. Suddenly, all those red words I’d learned by heart had new dimension, as the gospel narratives; the book “The Acts of the Apostles”; and epistles by Peter, John, Paul, and other followers of Jesus presented them being put into practice and expanded upon.

I continued to explore the Bible and to ask questions in church. One elder told me that Jesus healed in order to prove he was God. But right there in the Bible the red words said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). Surely Jesus wouldn’t tease us with this promise if he were the only one capable of such amazing work. 

In my childhood church, we would often talk about someone “finding the Lord,” and now as I was reading the Bible, I was finding a new sense of the Lord. I longed for a church that taught this Jesus that I was beginning to see—the compassionate healer and teacher who promised and proved that you and I can heal through prayer by the power of God. Our hometown had a wide range of churches, and I read whatever literature could be found on Jesus. Soon, my bookshelf was spilling over with books and pamphlets from different denominations. 

Then one day as a teenager, I wandered into the local Christian Science Reading Room. I had never heard of Christian Science, but the more the Reading Room attendants told me about Mary Baker Eddy—the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science—the more I felt drawn to the teachings of Christian Science. I felt Eddy’s words introduced me to a kindred seeker for the truth of God. Just as the belief of Jesus as God had unsettled me, John Calvin’s doctrine of predestination had “greatly troubled” Mary Baker Eddy as a child in her family’s church, as she explains in her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection (p. 13.). 

In Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, I at last found evidence for the view that Jesus also expected others to heal—evidence that harmonized the record written in black with the words written in red. For example, the book says: “Jesus said: ‘These signs shall follow them that believe; . . . they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.’ Who believes him?” (p. 38). What a question!

“He was addressing his disciples,” the passage continues, “yet he did not say, ‘These signs shall follow you,’ but them—‘them that believe’ in all time to come. . . . At another time Jesus prayed, not for the twelve only, but for as many as should believe ‘through their word.’ ” That means that you and I, twenty-first century Christians who are willing to accept the invitation of his words, can heal ourselves, our communities, and our world.

My first demonstration of the power of Christian Science healing was at scout camp. I was never one to do many rigorous physical activities, but I wanted to go hiking in the mountains of Colorado with my friends. At this point, I had been reading the weekly Bible Lessons from the Christian Science Quarterly for a couple of months. Every day at camp, I woke up and read the Lesson’s citations from the Bible and Science and Health, praying to know that God could help me during this hike, despite my inexperience. By the end of the trip, I was able to testify that during the hike I had been free of weariness, sun damage, blisters, and accidents. Any issues that came up were quickly met and overcome through prayer. The hike had given me much more than stunning mountain views—it gave me the opportunity to see God, divine Love, in action. Shortly afterward, in 2011, a friend who is a Christian Scientist countersigned my membership application for The Mother Church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston. 

At first I was afraid that my study in this new religion might undermine my deep love for Jesus. This question haunted me: If Jesus’ life became my practical model for living, would that make him no more than just another nice person, great teacher, or good man in the history of the world? 

I was happy to learn that Christian Science clearly does not discard or disregard Jesus. It teaches that Jesus holds a special place as the Son of God; the life of Jesus and his wonderful words and works present the Christ to us in its fullest and clearest expression.

Science and Health discusses the subject of Christ and Jesus many times in the platform of Christian Science (see pages 330–340). There, it confirms many common Christian teachings about the man Jesus. It does, however, differentiate between the historical Jesus and the Christ. For example, it explains that “Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (p. 332). And then it further clarifies the distinct nature of the Christ: “The divine image, idea, or Christ was, is, and ever will be inseparable from the divine Principle, God. Jesus referred to this unity of his spiritual identity thus: ‘Before Abraham was, I am;’ ‘I and my Father are one;’ ‘My Father is greater than I’ ” (p. 333).

Being a true Christian is having the willingness to see the Christ in action just as Jesus demonstrated it. We learn to heal the sick, to bless, to forgive, to welcome the outcast with open arms, and to comfort the weary heart. It sounds like quite a challenge, but the example of Jesus and the constant companionship of the Christ guide us on our way and correct us if we misstep.

My love for Jesus has only grown with everything I have learned through the study of Christian Science. The hymn that begins with “I love to tell the story,” the one I loved so much as a child, is still with me. To me, it is a hymn that bridges Christian denominations, though I now sing it with renewed understanding and joy. By teaching me more about the mission of Jesus and what he expected of his followers, Christian Science has taught me, in the words of Hymn 414, “to sing the new, new song,” which is, after all, only a more practiced rendition of “the old, old story / That I have loved so long.”

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