HIGH government officials, famous rock stars, aspiring politicians, well-known athletes, and others are increasingly finding themselves publicly accused of ethical violations or criminal behavior from bygone days. Some charges prove legitimate, and some don't. We may find ourselves, at one time or another, in a similar situation where some misdeed of our past is discovered by others and held out for public scrutiny. We don't have to suffer interminably for our mistake, however. If we are honest and willing to rectify any wrongdoing, smears on our integrity can be fairly reckoned with. They can be cleared up and put behind us for good.
Christ Jesus wisely admonished, we read in the Gospel of Matthew, ``Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison'' (5:25). If we feel we have something to hide, there may be a temptation to skirt incriminating charges. But the sooner we come to terms with accusations, the easier it is to resolve misunderstandings and make amends if necessary.
Even if we are guilty of some offense, we can turn to the comforting love of God and find the tender forgiveness and understanding we yearn to feel. But the first step is a self-awareness that we committed an offense. The next step is to reform our way of thinking and doing things so that we will never err in that way again. Then, when we have properly changed for the better, we'll find the forgiveness of God, and our fellowman, readily at hand.
One time, my dad and I were looking for a market for a vegetable crop we had coming into production. We found a packing company that seemed ideal for our needs, but they were extremely hesitant to work with us. Not understanding what the difficulty was, I arranged for my dad and me to meet with a high-level official of the organization. At the meeting, we were informed that in earlier years an employee of the company had filed a highly critical report on my dad.
The discussion that followed uncovered what had been a source of considerable soreness some years ago. A particular firm under the management of this corporation had illegally applied a dangerous pesticide that resulted in a major bee kill on my father's neighboring ranch. In the heat of the moment, my dad had quite an unfriendly exchange of words with the foreman responsible for the catastrophe. The foreman later filed this uncomplimentary report of the incident with the corporate headquarters.
The company had reformed its spray practices, and there had been no violations since. We were happy about that and held no grudges. But because of their unwillingness to work with us, there was obviously a need for further mending of differences. During the meeting I prayed for spiritual insight into how to heal wounds of the past. We all had one Father-Mother God. This common ground could be relied on as we found ways to resolve our differences. God is Love, as the Bible teaches. Everything He leads us to do causes us to express more of that Love.
As we sat in the office, I knew I could count on God to lead each individual's thought to forgiveness, compassion, and unselfishness. I could trust Love to unite, where pride had worked to divide. There need not be any leftover feelings. No sooner was I prayerfully assured that divine Love was in control than the company officers decided there was nothing worth getting anxious over anymore. We all admitted that we had lessons to learn from the unfortunate episodes of the past, but felt we had learned them sufficiently to avoid conflict now. The company decided they could work with us after all and agreed to market our crop. This began what proved to be a very friendly working relationship that lasted for many years.
In a book titled Miscellaneous Writings, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ``Evil is not something to fear and flee before, or that becomes more real when it is grappled with. Evil let alone grows more real, aggressive, and enlarges its claims; but, met with Science, it can and will be mastered by Science'' (p. 284). To meet evil with Science is to prove its unreality. God is the only presence and power. He is wholly good. His allness disallows the possibility of evil ever having a place to call its own. In human experience, evil may appear very real. But as Christ Jesus proved, and left his example for us to emulate, whatever opposes good can be overcome.
It is not enough simply to proclaim evil has no reality, of course. We must understand this fact and prove it with our thoughts and actions. Genuine reformation demands outward evidence that we know what good is and how to act accordingly. Putting off wrong for right demonstrates the powerlessness of evil to hold us under any bad influence.
Once this spiritual reformation has taken place, no past mistake is unforgivable. If we have changed for the better and someone still holds our past against us, we can trust the same power of Love that liberated us from condemnation to free that person as well.
God's love for man is impartial and unconditional. It is an all-powerful force for good that can resolve any point of conflict. The purpose of Love is to harmonize and unite. Evil can't prevent the good purpose from succeeding, for Love alone has power; evil does not.
It's never too late to correct our ways and redeem ourselves from previous misjudgments. Accusations of any kind can be met fearlessly and confidently. God causes the good and honest heart to prosper.