IT'S hard to avoid noticing the moral failings in society. The nightly news keeps us informed of current attitudes about morality -- some of which stray pretty far from the Judeo-Christian standard set forth in the Bible. What is our response? Do we tend to be judgmental or harsh in our assessment of others? We might do well in these times to look closely at the life of Christ Jesus. How did he deal with the sinners of his day?
One time when Jesus was teaching in the temple, the scribes and Pharisees brought to him a woman ``taken in adultery.''1 They asked the Master what he thought should be done with her. The people were quick to quote the ancient law, which required stoning of such offenders.
Did Jesus think the woman deserved to die for her sin? Evidently not. He said to the accusers, ``He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.'' Gradually the crowd dispersed.
This was the brief interchange that followed: ``Hath no man condemned thee?'' Jesus asked. She replied, ``No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.''
The Biblical account doesn't tell us whether the woman actually obeyed Jesus' last words to her. But we could assume that his spirituality touched her deeply and that the process of redemption had at least begun.
How could Jesus deal with others so lovingly? He lived in constant communion with God, infinite Love. And he knew himself to be God's Son, His witness. Jesus' mission revealed to us and all humanity the nature of divine Love.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: ``Jesus aided in reconciling man to God by giving man a truer sense of Love, the divine Principle of Jesus' teachings, and this truer sense of Love redeems man from the law of matter, sin, and deathby the law of Spirit, -- the law of divine Love.''2
When we're tempted to react to the behavior of others with dismay or disgust, shouldn't we strive for a better understanding of divine Love? We can turn to the Bible for a clearer view of Deity and His forgiveness and mercy.
Prayer will help us understand divine Love better. In humble, silent communion with God our honest desire to feel His presence is satisfied. Through our spiritual sense, not material perceptions, we come to know Deity as our heavenly friend, always near.
As we know God better, it will be more and more natural for us to act like God's children. We will be more Christlike in dealing with others; less apt to judge unfairly and more apt to see the good in them that needs support. This is not to condone sin but to contribute toward exposing and healing it. Sin must be faced squarely. But no power can equal the might of Love in destroying it.
What happens to sin in the light of divine Love? It is banished. Why? Because in Love's presence sin is seen for what it is: a powerless, lifeless imposition; evil parading around in the guise of good.
The light of divine Love reveals man as Deity really made him: spiritual and good.When we strive to identify others in this light we are helping them to be what they truly are. We are calling forth their inherent spirituality and goodness.
There are times, of course, when sinresists the cleansing power of Love.Does God then punish His children? As changeless Love, Deity could never harm His sinless offspring. The suffering that comes in the wake of sin is the selfpunishment of sin. It is the natural andinevitable result of living contrary toGod's law.
Mrs. Eddy states, quoting Paul: ```Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' Error excludes itself from harmony. Sin is its own punishment.''3 Shouldn't our compassion for others be all the stronger when we hear of individuals suffering for sin? That's the timeto affirm in prayer that divine Love ispresent everywhere to redeem receptive hearts. There is no dark, lonely place where Love is absent or cannot be felt.
Often, the suffering that accompanies sin is the agent that impels one to face up to immorality and forsake it. When individuals lose their peace or dignity or health, they are forced to reexamine their lives. As repentant hearts turn to God for moral strength and strive to obey the divine will, they will find the power of Love sustaining them. Ultimately, both sin and suffering will be destroyed through God's grace.
Our Christly compassion can speed this process of moral redemption. Rather than weigh down another with condemnation, we can uplift him with purifying prayer.
1See John 8:3-11. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 19. 3Ibid.,p. 537.