A FRIEND lent me two beautiful white chenille bedspreads for my guest room. With active boys in the house, I knew the only way the bedspreads would be safe was to keep the bedroom door shut between guests' visits. One day I went in there to adjust the shade, and my eyes fell on a big, black spot at the end of one of the spreads. My heart sank. We'd had a problem with the boys -- a black felt-tip pen had been used on the wrong things -- and I was sure that's what had ruined the bedspread. I felt so bad I could hardly bear to take a closer look. Fixing the shade, I stared out the window, wondering how I could make it up to my friend. But when I turned to walk out of the room, the spot didn't seem quite as large as before. Then I discovered that it was just an insect, and I removed it. Sensitivity to my friend's feelings had magnified the problem.
Often our sins or the sins of others seem magnified and as indelible as black ink on cotton fabric. But the human mind's response to sin always tends to run in extremes. It either ignores the seriousness of the mistake, or it builds up weaknesses to the point of almost mentally incapacitating us. A right view of sin is essential to preserving our integrity. As we look at the ugly experiences of our lives, they can seem so vivid in memory. Maybe the reason they seem vivid isn't because evil is permanent but because it is absolutely foreign to our real nature as the image of God. The spirit of Christ-healing can expunge the memory of evil and restore a greater confidence in God's gracious control of His universe.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says much about our God-given dominion over sin in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Alerting readers to the workings of evil, she writes: ``The belief of sin, which has grown terrible in strength and influence, is an unconscious error in the beginning, -- an embryonic thought without motive; but afterwards it governs the so-called man. Passion, depraved appetites, dishonesty, envy, hatred, revenge ripen into action, only to pass from shame and woe to their final punishment.''1
Thoughts with good motives are pure and are the basis of right action. These thoughts derive from the divine Mind, God. As we face the past with an honest desire to remove the effects of evil, we begin to feel the God-given strength to uphold the reality of our inherent innocence.And the more this innocence is accepted to be the basis of joy and satisfaction, the closer we come to accepting the one Mind as the only source of man's being.
Sometimes, even though there's a sincere desire to put sin completely behind us, we can find harmful suggestions and bad memories slipping into thought at the most unexpected moments. In our surprise we may be tempted to be alarmed, discouraged, confused, or even fascinated by these sudden onslaughts and wonder why they keep coming even when uninvited.
These can be met with immediate dismissal, as Christ Jesus confronted evil suggestions in the wilderness. In the Luke account of the experience,2 Jesus counters the first temptation with a passage from Scripture. But even after the firm rejection of evil there is another temptation, which he meets with the command ``Get thee behind me, Satan'' (a rebuke many Christians have found helpful in contemporary struggles with evil!). Finally, a third temptation is also rebuked with a passage from Scripture, and then the battle is over.
In our own lives it doesn't matter whether sinful thoughts come three, thirty, or three hundred times. We have God-given authority to exercise the same discipline -- to bring our thoughts and feelings into accord with our highest aspirations through prayer. This prayer acknowledges God as the great power of good -- and the only genuine power. And it serves to reduce evil thoughts and impulsions to nothing more than a mental whisper that is silenced with the truth of man's innocence as the child of God. Our true selfhood is the child of God, His spiritual image; it is not a weak, sin-prone mortal. This is why we can find freedom from sin through heartfelt prayer.
We are not alone in this prayer; we have the support of Christ, of the divine influence in human consciousness, which reassures us that we can be faithful to God because God is faithful to us. It is His love that upholds and protects our innocence. No matter how much our history or current longings may try to convince us otherwise, the constancy of God's love is an ever-ready source of strength, forgiveness, and courage to go forward.
1Science and Health, p. 188. 2See Luke 4:1-13. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7