The sins of another
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Have you ever left an event seething over the thoughtlessness or injustice of a friend's or family member's behavior? Have you rehearsed some sad scene over and over again in your mind? We often don't realize that this re-living of a conversation or event is unhealthy. It is wearing. Even worse, it paralyzes progress and the correction of injustice.
The Bible tells how one man, Esau, had many reasons to hate his twin brother Jacob. The final blow came when Jacob defrauded him of his inheritance. Esau vowed to kill his brother if he could get his hands on him. (If this sounds like a report from the ten o'clock news, it just shows that human behavior hasn't changed much over the centuries.)
Jacob took the murder threat seriously and fled his home to escape his brother's anger.
We don't know what Esau's reaction was at that point. He could have gone on nursing his wounds, feeding his hate. And in similar circumstances, we might be tempted to do the same. But why should we suffer a moment for someone else's sins? There is strength from God at hand - spiritual resources - that can renew and restore our peace. The sooner we seek them out, the sooner we are freed from anger and injustice.
Nursing anger, cultivating self-righteousness, dwelling on hurts, are temptations in our path. They are actually sinful thoughts. They may feel justifiable. But that doesn't make them any less sinful. The penalty for thinking them is that we cannot hear or feel God's leading that will help to restore our life and bring us evidence of His justice and love.
It is surprising what we learn when we stop this rehearsal of wrongs by seeking spiritual thoughts and guidance from God instead. One of the key lessons is that our life is not in the hands of other people or organizations. It is in the hands of God. Consider what Jesus said to Pontius Pilate when Pilate said he had the power to decide whether Jesus would live or die: "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11). Events proved how true these words were.
Would you be willing to pray from that same basis? When you pray, acknowledge that because you have a life that God governs and supports, you cannot be deprived of the ability to feel His goodness and love, or to see the evidence of His power and justice in practical ways. These truths will dissolve the thoughts that keep us frozen in injustice and hurt.
A book that teaches how to nullify the evils that limit our lives is "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." The author was Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper. The opening sentence tells the reader, "To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings" (pg. vii). Later on comes this question: "Are material means the only refuge from fatal chances? Is there no divine permission to conquer discord of every kind with harmony, with Truth and Love? We should remember that Life is God, and that God is omnipotent" (pg. 394). And further on, "The more difficult seems the material condition to be overcome by Spirit, the stronger should be our faith and the purer our love" (pg. 410).
This approach lets us move forward in life. The unlimited love and goodness of God cannot be cut off by someone else's actions. This love and goodness is a spiritual constant, and it's always available. When we turn to God, we can learn and prove how Truth triumphs over lies. How Love washes away the effects of hate. We find ourselves untouched by the sins of others.
Esau may have learned this lesson. The Bible doesn't detail how he grew spiritually. But when Jacob returned home, he sent ahead an enormous gift for Esau, including herds of goats and cattle and other provisions. Esau told Jacob that this gift was unnecessary. Despite having been disowned, Esau had prospered greatly.
Jacob had suffered for his sins, but his character had been renewed. This was what had enabled him to return home - and to a higher sense of brotherhood than he had known before. And Esau hadn't needed to wait for Jacob's regeneration for his own life to be filled with God's blessings.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society