Sin, punishment, reward
Are these matters that exclusively concern students in a theological seminary or preachers in a pulpit? Not really. Because individual insight into these subjects can have a great effect on our concept of identity and purpose, and of course this concerns us all.
When asked by a lawyer, "Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus cut across centuries of ambiguities and theological disputations, answering: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." n1
n1 Matthew 22:36-40
Any thought, motive, or action that does not measure up to this practical standard could be regarded as "sin" in one degree or another. Some facts of sin are essentially a mistaken, misdirected sense of good -- seeking happiness and meaning where they cannot be found, often in selfish indulgence rather than in Christly living and God-centered service. This distorted sense of value brings its own punishment and is perhaps the main source of the discouragement, futility, and boredom so apparent in today's world. Sin cannot be ignored! But neither can it be dealt with from the standpoint of mere threats or self-degradation. Punishment for sin continues just as long as the sin itself -- no more, no less.
To the Christian Scientist, heaven and hell are much more than possible future places of residency. They are states of thought. In a very real sense, people can experience their own heaven or hell here as they draw closer to God's love or allow themselves to be engulfed in materialism.
Feeling God's love is the very foundation of effective prayer, and prayer is indispensable in the destruction of sin. More than a simplistic resignation, or giving in to fate, prayer involves a growing understanding of the wholly good nature of God and of man's relationship to Him. God is perpetually Love. His intent for man therefore is always loving. Prayer is more than a pleading contest. It is consistently acknowledging and valuing the oneness, allness, and goodness of God.
Self-examination is a vital part of prayer and essential in coming to grips with sin. The sinful act starts with the sinful thought. Jesus pointed to this when he said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." n2 Merely temporizing with sin can do little to control and destroy it. We have to face it squarely, reaching the sinful thought and motive not through self-hypnosis or willpower, but through the redemptive, regenerative potency of the grace of God.
n2 5:27, 28
The word most often used for "grace" in the New Testament is the Greek charis ,m meaning, according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance to the Bible,m "the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude. . . .m
This holy, saving grace is the most powerful force in the universe. Through it we come to see man as spiritual, the image of God, Spirit. We realize that he exists to glorify his Maker through reflecting the qualities of God. Knowledge of this fact, and the living of it, bring a reward that defies measurement -- a continuing, lasting blessing that ultimates in an understanding and experiencing of eternal life. Paul puts it well when he writes, "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."n3 One of the tenets, or significant points, of Christian Science, given by a dedicated Christian, Mary Baker Eddy,n4 states: "We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief is sin is punished so long as the belief lasts." n5
n4 Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science
n5 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,m p. 497.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE Sin shall not have dominion over you for ye are. . .under grace. Romans 6:14