Heaven at hand
WHEN I was a child I attended a Protestant Sunday School, and I'll always treasure what I learned there. I learned to love God, to love the Bible stories, and to love good. I also learned by heart the names of the books of the Bible and received a copy of the New Testament as a reward. Happy memories! There was, however, always one thing that troubled me -- heaven and hell. I wondered how good you had to be to get to heaven. Trying to work this out on the school marks system, I thought 70 percent good behavior would be acceptable. But then there would come the dreadful thought of someone who got only 69 percent and went to hell. Instinctively I knew this was not right, and so the problem remained unsolved.
It was not until I was in my teens, when my mother experienced healing through Christian Science and I was enrolled in a Christian Science Sunday School, that gradually an understanding, as well as a feeling, that God is just, began to unfold. Divine justice doesn't save some while condemning others. Everyone, sooner or later, must meet the demands of divine law and thereby experience the God-established reality of heaven at hand. Didn't Jesus say, ``The kingdom of God is within you''?1
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy,2 one of the Biblically based synonyms given for God is Principle, which is frequently linked with another synonym, Love. I began to understand that the divine Principle, Love, must operate for all people impartially. When mistakes occur in our mathematical calculations we don't waste time blaming the rules of math but set to work to find out where we have gone wrong and thereby find the solution. Nor should we blame God, the Principle of the universe, for mistakes in our lives or difficulties in the world. These are not brought about by a vengeful or an uncaring god but, fundamentally, by ignorance of the one God and of His Commandments, and perhaps by an unwillingness to obey His laws because ofthe belief that they are too demanding or impractical for these times.
Christ Jesus' ministry was hundreds of years after the time of Moses, but he never taught or implied that the Commandments had become outdated; rather, he stressed their importance by demonstrating their validity and practicality through his life and works.
Nearly two thousand years after the time of Jesus, Mrs. Eddy wrote in Science and Health: ``The First Commandment is my favorite text. It demonstrates Christian Science.... The divine Principle of the First Commandment bases the Science of being, by which man demonstrates health, holiness, and life eternal.''3
Obedience to God's Commandments ensures ``health, holiness, and life eternal,'' because it enables us to prove the reality of our being, the reality of our spiritual wholeness and indestructibility as God's likeness. What are some of the rules required by these Commandments? To worship God, to refrain from idolatry, to express purity, truthfulness, brotherly love, humility, and justice. The exercise of these qualities brings the right answers into our lives and provides the only basis that can satisfy and bless.
Obviously we are not expected to grasp all of mathematics in one term, nor are we expected to bring about total perfection immediately. It's a continuing process. But we can act in the spirit of Paul's counsel ``If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.''4 Jesus didn't exclude from his healing love anyone who was willing to follow his teaching and example.
We long to see more unity, equality, and integrity in the world, but this will not come about through physical science or simply through human inventiveness, however useful and progressive these may be. There is only one way, God's way, and we find it through striving to follow the teaching and example of Jesus.
In difficult times, instead of blaming God we might prayerfully examine ourselves to see if we are steadfastly holding to the rules. Then we will feel the power of God's love sustaining and directing us.
How comforting it is to feel an absolute assurance of God's unchanging, impartial love for all; to feel that we don't have to wrestle anxiously with a marks system to gain heaven. We can experience something of heaven right now by progressively living in accordance with God's command ``Thou shalt have no other gods before me.''5
1Luke 17:21. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health,p. 340. 4II Corinthians 8:12. 5Exodus 20:3. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. Isaiah 1:19