IN the church to which I belong, we regularly sing that well-known hymn ''The King of Love my Shepherd is'' (Christian Science Hymnal, No. 330). I particularly love the verse that says,
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
But yet in love He sought me,
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home, rejoicing, brought me.
Perhaps--like me--you have a past that includes thoughts and actions that you've come to realize were wrong. Do we owe such a past space in our memory? I've found that God does willingly lay us on His shoulder and carry us home to the consciousness of His redeeming love. This spiritual redemption shows us how to correct our errors as well as how to make restitution for any harm we may have done others. Once wrongdoing is corrected and given up in this way, however, we can freely put aside even the memory of our mistakes, cherishing instead the spiritual lessons we've learned in outgrowing them.
God redeems our past so that we can go forward to be and do good, under the impulsion of the divine forgiveness evidenced by the Saviour, Christ Jesus. Jesus' forgiveness rebuked and destroyed wrong, but didn't cling to the remembrance of wrongs outgrown. It's essential, too, for us to obey Jesus' command ''Go, and sin no more'' (John 8:11).
In fact, one way that the continuing activity of the Christ--the spiritual understanding brought to light by Jesus' healing works--is evidenced in our lives today is by its ability to enable us firmly to put a sad or sinful past behind us. The Christ requires a spiritual reassessment of our lives that highlights the true view of man's eternal, unfallen identity as the child of God. The truth of man--your truth and mine!--is that we are each spiritual and perfect, the image and likeness of God, as the Bible says. As we recognize this present truth of our identities, another aspect of this important fact dawns on our spiritually awakening thought. Namely, that this divine truth always has been true! Our true identity in the past always has been, in reality, spiritual man, pure and perfect.
In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, speaks of God as divine Love and assures us: ''The design of Love is to reform the sinner'' (p. 35). To the degree we align ourselves with the true, spiritual view of man's everlasting integrity and purity--and behave from this basis--our slate is effectively wiped clean. God has no knowledge of a sinful record, only of the perfect, spiritual man of His creating. We cannot be held hostage to an immoral past when we have finally gained our freedom from any desire to repeat it and we now live moral lives.
This is borne out in the story of Saul of Tarsus, who persecuted the first Christians. Later he saw the error of his ways, became one of the most faithful and inspired leaders of the young movement, and was known as Paul. From his story in the book of Acts, it is clear how full a life Paul lived from then on, healing, preaching, and building the early Church among the non-Jewish followers of Christ.
In his own reformation and regeneration, Paul proved we owe nothing to a history of wrong thinking or acting put sincerely behind us. He also elucidated what it is that we do owe! He said in his letter to the Romans, ''Owe no man any thing, but to love one another'' (13:8). That is, we owe it to our fellow men and women to rise prayerfully above wrong views of them into something of the recognition of their spiritual innocence. In reality we can understand our own past sins as having a mistaken, material basis only to the degree we comprehend this to be so for all.
You may well have strayed. I certainly have. Yet God is always welcoming all of us to our true home, that joyous spiritual consciousness, where we have always lived.