Reversing a damaged reputation

HAVEN'T we all done or said something we regretted? Many mistakes are easily corrected or outgrown with increasing maturity. Others, however, seem so irreversible that they become synonymous with one's character. When this happens, even if the offender wakes up to recognize and regret the wrong done, he or she may wonder if it's ever possible to restore the respect that has been lost. The life of the Apostle Paul provides an encouraging example. By persecuting the followers of Christ Jesus, Paul earned himself an infamous reputation among the early Christians. Later, as a result of divine revelation, Paul realized his mistake and became a Christian himself. How could someone with his reputation ever hope to gain enough credibility as a Christian to become accepted as one himself? Surely there was no future for him within the Church he had so wronged. But Paul did become one of the most influential leaders of the early Christian Church. He discovered that ``if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.'' 1 He must have perceived something of man's true selfhood as the sinless offspring of God rather than a condemned heir of Adam. His moral character testified so convincingly to his reformation that what he had done in the past became totally overshadowed by who he was in the present. Paul's ability to accept the truth of his immortal sonship was dramatically illustrated following a shipwreck off the island of Melita. While helping fuel a fire, he was bitten by a poisonous viper. The natives guessed that Paul was a murderer who was finally facing justice. Paul's past provided some room for such speculation; among his acts of persecution, he had watched approvingly the stoning of Stephen. Had his former errors, despite his genuine reformation, come back to punish him? Paul must not have thought so. He shook the viper off into the fire and felt no harm.2 He had faced justice through the cleansing of his consciousness from hatred and self-will. Now his life reflected man's unity with God as taught by Christ Jesus, and he needed no further punishment. Mary Baker Eddy3 elucidates this point in the third tenet of Christian Science. It reads, ``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 in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts.'' 4 When wrong thoughts and actions cease, nothing remains to be punished. As we turn from past errors and demonstrate our present unity with God, the regrettable actions of the past become so totally out of character, they are no longer believable. We see that they never were part of our real being as God's image. Then, if someone were to attack our reputation by accusing us of an error we had outgrown, we could, like Paul, shake it off and feel no harm. By putting off past mistakes, correcting the false views of existence that motivated those mistakes, and living consistently in harmony with a higher sense of being, we can regain the credibility and respect that seem to have been lost. Then we will find wonderful opportunities to be of service to mankind, to forward the cause of righteousness, and to provide through our life one more example of God's power to redeem mankind from sin. 1 II Corinthians 5:17. 2 See Acts 28:1-6. 3 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 497.

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