Easter's effect: to be made better
THERE is nothing like the aloneness of coming face to face with human failings. Yet this is just what we need if we're to be made better. It's the crucible of repentance, which refines and exalts. To be made better. Could there be a deeper yearning? Isn't this also part of what we feel in the call to Easter services throughout the world? To wrestle free of the always disappointing concept of ourselves as mortal, with inborn limits to goodness, moral clarity, and fidelity-- this is the hope of a life touched by the risen Saviour.
With every healing of sin and sickness, and by his own triumph over death, Christ Jesus revealed man's true nature as God's spiritual creation. Jesus' works evidenced what he actually saw of true being. The Christ, God's always present influence which Jesus fully expressed, is here today to lift off limits, to redeem.
Jesus didn't struggle through opposition, betrayal, and animosity to his full victory so that you and I wouldn't have to struggle. He said, ``In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.'' 1 Sometimes it seems as though we are our own worst opposition. We betray ourselves in thoughts and acts violating what we know is our true selfhood as the pure likeness of God.
Others have been there before us. There's no better example than that ardent Christian, Paul. He said, ``The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.'' 2 Sound familiar? It sure does to me! Yet Paul also fearlessly identified the opposition. He termed it the ``carnal mind,'' which he explained always hates and opposes God, good. This false mentality would make us think that good is material and sensual and that true goodness--true spirituality and fidelity--is not natural.
Jesus lived divine goodness. The essence of his suffering and of his triumph over hatred and death is missed, however, if we think of our own expression of goodness only in terms of the checks to church and charities we may write, or the professions of spiritual rebirth we may make. As important as these actions may be, none of them will win the victories of regeneration.
Winning our way to a deeper Christianity doesn't come all at once, like a sprinter breaking the tape at the finish line. Working out one's own salvation in the way taught by Jesus isn't a matter of instant gratification. The joy of this work and its rewards, though, are unmatched by any advertised benefit of the physical senses.
I once struggled long with the insistent suggestion that I was missing something that a freer sexuality offered. Like an advertising campaign for a nonexistent paradise resort, sensual pictures would run through my thinking unchallenged, until remorse broke through to cancel the ads. Through my study of the Bible, I knew that man's purity was intact because God is its source. What divine Love makes cannot be unlike Love. When sensual thoughts came, I refused to welcome the fantasy and prayed to see and be more of what God had made. I knew that, as Christ Jesus taught, adultery is first commited in one's heart by thoughts entertained and not ruled out.3 I realized that obedience, not repression or license, would give me the freedom and joy of genuine spiritual manhood.
At one low point I was alone, wrestling with my thinking. This time, instead of condemnation, the thought came: I am a good man. That protest was the beginning of freedom, won daily by correction and resurrection of thought.
We live in a world in which the Easter message of spiritual potential sometimes seems almost drowned out by pitches for materialism. Yet Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``Who of the world's lovers ever found her true?'' Later in the same paragraph she says, ``Happiness consists in being and in doing good; only what God gives, and what we give ourselves and others through His tenure, confers happiness: conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart, and nothing else can.'' 4
Easter's message comes to us as the still voice of God urging us to be made whole, to be regenerated according to the Christly model. And this is accomplished by understanding what you already are in truth--the Father's pure child.
1 John 16:33. 2 Romans 7:19. 3 See Matthew 5:28. 4 Message to The Mother Church for 1902, p. 17. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart. Psalms 26:2