Freedom from guilt and shame

IF guilt and shame aren't synonymous, they must at least be very close friends. Of course, one can be guilty of a crime and feel no shame. There's a term for this; it's moral idiocy. It's also possible to be made to feel both guilt and shame and yet be innocent. Evil, whether it takes the form of merited or unmerited guilt or shame, would blind us to our real nature. The callous sinner and the suffering saint both need to awake to genuine, spiritual selfhood. And even though we probably consider ourselves falling somewhere between those extremes, we can begin to find freedom from the sinfulness that hardens human hearts as well as from the suffering that breaks them.

It's interesting to observe the manner in which Christ Jesus dealt with his fellowman. In the Gospels you'll discover an absence of Jesus' shaming anyone.

Consider how he treated people who were suffering from the isolating disease of leprosy. Think about what he did for the woman taken in adultery. Peter actually denied knowing him three times, and yet when they were together again, Jesus treated him with directness, honesty, and he ended up entrusting Peter with tremendous responsibilities. It's quite remarkable to observe Jesus' dealings with individuals who came from groups many considered his archenemies, people like the Pharisee Nicodemus, the Roman centurion whose servant he healed, and the upper-class Simon, who had him as a dinner guest.

Jesus certainly didn't become a boon companion of each one of these people.In fact, many who heard his message hated him for it. But there were those who felt God's grace because of his gracefulness and respect for their ability to be good. The healings that followed confirmed the true ability of each of us to conform to God's good law.

Spiritual healing is essential to our lives. As important as physical well-being is, though, spiritual healing involves much more than even that precious thing. Spiritual healing is confirmation that each of us is not the mortal, material, flawed creature he or she seems to be. Such healing and transformation demonstrate the allness of divine Love and the power behind the fact that we are spiritually good and can do good things. Once we glimpse this fundamental truth, we can do more for ourselves and others than can all the condemnation and punishment that the world can impose upon evil.

The divine Love that Jesus reflected was what made him able and worthy to rebuke sin, to comfort the brokenhearted, and to cast out evils. While it's true that we can't do away with guilt or shame simply by attempting to make all sorts of behavior justifiable, it's also true that we don't bring the healing knowledge of divine Love to people through the charge of man's irreversibly sinful nature.

There was an occasion when Jesus came to the aid of a man described as having ``an unclean devil.'' Whatever that evil was, it was personified in the plea ``Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth?''1 In a way, that ``Let us alone'' is always the claim of evil. And there's no more disastrous way to concede power to evil than to accept it as possessing someone. It's equally harmful if we accept that prejudiced perspective regarding a particular race or division of people. Jesus understood that divine Love is indivisible; what it is for one it must be for all.

The reliable antidote to evil in any form is our understanding of God's law of good. The antidote to hate is love; to disease is the truth that man is not the medium of evil but rather is the expression of God. Writing about ``an impervious armor'' against evil, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, counseled: ``...keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them. It is plain that nothing can be added to the mind already full. There is no door through which evil can enter, and no space for evil to fill in a mind filled with goodness. Good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort.''2

Such a state of mind is Christly. It can forgive, wisely avoid evil temptations, and deal honestly and compassionately with others. And on the way to achieving such a state of grace, we find developing within us the resilience, self-forgiveness, and dignity that undergird our own and others' efforts to be good.

1Luke 4:33, 34. 2The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 210. This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the April 4, 1988 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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