Who sins?

WE had occasionally gone to films and debated their merits over dinner. We had driven to my home city for the holiday sparkle--my dearest college friend and the young, rather dashing professor to whom she was informally engaged. Then, without telling her, he started calling me. Flattered and intrigued, I found it easy to drift along, seeing him in out-of-the-way places. After all, such things were common enough in matters of the heart, weren't they? During this time I happened to read the Biblical narrative of Jacob. He just took what he wanted, rupturing family bonds and the social order. Reluctantly, but clearly, I saw that his story was speaking to me. For me, my betrayal of a close friendship implied disregard for all human affection. I felt it put me at odds with God, divine Love, the source of the good in stable human ties.

Yet the Bible also records Jacob's nighttime struggle with an adversary. He emerged with a new name and nature, able to restore his relationship with the brother he had deceived.1 I had tended to picture God's power as arrayed against Jacob as he fought. (Don't we sometimes conceive of God as creating men and women with sinful inclinations and then punishing them when they commit the deed?)

However, a passage in the Christian Science textbook brought me up short. Mary Baker Eddy2 writes, ``Jacob was alone, wrestling with error,--struggling with a mortal sense of life, substance, and intelligence as existent in matter with its false pleasures and pains,--when an angel, a message from Truth and Love, appeared to him and smote the sinew, or strength, of his error, till he saw its unreality; and Truth, being thereby understood, gave him spiritual strength in this Peniel of divine Science.''3

I could see that the adversary against whom Jacob struggled was not God but carnal selfhood, that nature supposedly made of dust and earthly desires. Far from being an adversary, punishing a sinner for sins he was born to commit, God saved Jacob from the terrible deception that sin had pressed upon him. The angelic messenger revealed to Jacob something of his real selfhood, which never had been an earthling, resisting angels. It had always been God's pure likeness.

As was true of Jacob, of whom it was finally said, ``As a prince hast thou power with God and with men,''4 my genuine selfhood was the expression of God. I could shed sin because all the power of God, good, was on my side. It originated and upheld my innocence. The attraction that had bound me began to seem distant. Sin was defeated. I could see that God's child was not a sinner, and I was soon able to talk honestly with the woman who was my friend. Our relationship, more firmly grounded as a result of this experience, continued into the years after she had become the professor's wife.

Whatever form sin may assume, whether brutal and horrifying, or alluring, it is not original to God's idea, His spiritual likeness. This perception is the angel touch that breaks the strength of sin.

Christ Jesus termed whatever would impose itself upon God's good creation as ``the devil,'' as ``a liar, and the father of it.''5 In his presence, people discovered a truer selfhood allied with God. Their essential natures were no more made of sinful impulses than of the dust in which Jesus wrote as an angry crowd debated the punishment due an adulterous woman.6

Like that woman, whom Jesus commanded, ``Go, and sin no more,'' we can depart from sin. Accepting and manifesting the spiritual sonship with God that Jesus revealed as the actual nature of man, we can walk the path to salvation he marked out. As his ministry of healing and his triumph over the grave proved, we are ultimately bound by none of the dictates of earth. We are not born of dust, compelled to sin. We are the offspring of God, witnessing to His nature.

1See Genesis, chaps. 32-33. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 308. 4Genesis 32:28. 5John 8:44. 6See John 8:2-11. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: If I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me....who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 7:20,24,25

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