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No Penalty For Innocence

I WAS feeling miserable when the telephone rang. I had been fretting over some unhappy and unexpected changes in one of my friendships that were also causing strain and complications in another. One of my closest girlfriends and I were surprised to find ourselves casually dating the same man. We talked openly about the situation, and at first we both felt fine. Soon we each had hurt feelings of varying degrees, however, and I wasn't happy at all with our male friend.

Someone had once told me that our interactions with other people are only valuable as they teach us more about God, but I wasn't quite sure what I was learning in this instance. Recent conversations with my girlfriend had revolved around this issue. Most of what we had to say was frustrating, because it didn't bring us any closer to a solution. But occasionally we would discuss resolving our problems through prayer. We are both Christian Scientists, and we know from experience that God heals all ills--an d that includes difficult relationships. I have to admit, though, that I was spending more time talking about prayer than praying. It was easy to talk about the perfect, harmonious relationship that continuously exists between God and His spiritual creation, including man, who is made in His likeness. But I wasn't really devoting myself to understanding and living the ideas my lips were voicing.

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When I answered the phone that day, I sounded so miserable that the friend who was calling me knew immediately that something was wrong. I had started to explain the complicated recent events when he interrupted me and asked me if I had done anything wrong. I said no, and I meant it! I could honestly say that I had done my very best to care for each of my friends' feelings and to think and act with integrity. Then my friend told me that if I hadn't done anything wrong, I didn't have to pay a penalty! It made sense to me. If I hadn't robbed a bank, would it be just to be sent to jail for the crime? No, of course not. Similarly the spiritually based innocence my friend was referring to was protecting me in a way that even my best intentions in dealing with the other two friends couldn't. This conviction of my real, unchangeable, spiritual innocence as God's child assured me that I already had rock solid protection. As I ended the phone conversation I felt completely free of the intense unhappiness that had i mprisoned me moments before. Both friendships were soon based on a firmer foundation.

The Bible teaches that God made everything, including man. Genesis records, "God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. One of the good qualities that is necessarily included in the man that God created is innocence. An increasing understanding that spiritual innocence, or freedom from wrongdoing of any kind, is actually a part of man's very makeup--and that in reality this includes me and everyone else--has helped me to love myself and others more purely and fully. And isn't this what C hrist Jesus urged his followers to do?

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "The spiritual reality is the scientific fact in all things. The spiritual fact, repeated in the action of man and the whole universe, is harmonious and is the ideal of Truth. What a wonderful promise! As we actively strive to see and demonstrate our innate innocence, which is just one of the many beautiful spiritual qualities man possesses, we do learn more about God and ma n. It's a twofold blessing.

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