THANKSGIVING dinner was finished. The members of the family gathered around a copy of the family tree, spread out on the sewing room table. Proudly the aunt who had done the research pointed to the ancestors who had immigrated to America on the Mayflower. Then, with a certain chagrin, she indicated a forebear who had come to ruin. ``You'll find a rogue in every family if you look hard enough,'' she commented with a chuckle. Heredity is indeed a mixed blessing. All of us have associated with our family or cultural backgrounds qualities for which we may be justifiably grateful. Yet often we appear to have inherited -- from this same background -- qualities from which we long to be free. ``You have to take the bitter with the sweet,'' the ``realist'' may tell us. The individual committed to positive thinking advises us to maximize the good and minimize the bad. Christ Jesus had a more radical approach. ``Except a man be born again,'' he taught, ``he cannot see the kingdom of God.''1
Saul of Tarsus found out through personal experience what Jesus meant. Fiercely proud of the Pharisaical training that placed him among the intellectual elite of his people, Saul violently resisted what he regarded as the heretical teachings of Jesus, until his encounter with the Christ on the road to Damascus.2
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Saul of Tarsus beheld the way -- the Christ, or Truth -- only when his uncertain sense of right yielded to a spiritual sense, which is always right. Then the man was changed. Thought assumed a nobler outlook, and his life became more spiritual. He learned the wrong that he had done in persecuting Christians, whose religion he had not understood, and in humility he took the new name of Paul.''3
It became the mission of this man, who in the past had been so bound to his own culture, to take the infant Christianity beyond its ethnic boundaries. Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles, charged with carrying the message of Christ throughout the Greco-Roman world. He devoted his life to the flowering of Christianity as a universal religion.
Paul knew that there was more to each of us than being the product of a particular family and culture. He wrote to the Christians living in Rome, ``The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.''4
God is our true and eternal Parent, and as His spiritual offspring we bear only His qualities. These qualities, like Him, are only good. God sees us now, and has always seen us, as His beloved children. God is Love, as the Bible tells us. Acknowledging our roots in Love, coming to feel through prayer that our actual nature is spiritual, that we're not truly the product of a material origin but of Love itself, enables us to find stability and peace. Yes, we seem very much to be the outcome of genes, a product of biology. But to open our thought to a higher concept of ourselves through worship of the one God as the only creator is to glimpse a freedom and a wholeness that we haven't known before.
We don't have to settle for some good and some bad, nor must we forsake what is of value in our human heritage. Paul never lost the ability his background provided. He put it, rather, to a higher service.
Finding our spiritual origin never diminishes our individuality. Speaking of the need to grow Godward, Mrs. Eddy writes: ``This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man's absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace.''5
Such are the fruits of our true heritage.
1John 3:3. 2See Acts, chapter 9. 3Science and Health, p. 326. 4Romans 8:16, 17. 5Science and Health, p. 265.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup....Yea, I have a goodly heritage. Psalms 16:5,6