MY husband and I had just sat down to rest after work. Our young daughter was toddling around. She noticed the videocassette recorder and began pushing the buttons. When we first asked her to stop, she looked at us with a look that said, "But this is fun." With a grin she pushed a few more buttons. She wasn't doing any real harm to the VCR, so instead of getting up to stop her, I lazily warned, "Now, are you going to have to get something for us to spank you with?" Even though she could not speak yet, she understood what I'd said. Her response taught me a wonderful lesson. She left the room and came back a few moments later with a long piece of tissue paper. She handed it to me to spank her with!
We laughed and laughed. She had never had more than a pat when a firm "no" was needed. Bringing that long, harmless strip was like her saying to me, "Mom, I am good not because I fear punishment, but because that is how God made me."
This fact that God created every child obedient and sinless has helped me immensely, not only in child rearing, but also with learning to be more obedient myself. Years after the VCR incident I was doing something quite wrong. I knew it and even suffered from it. Suffering from sin is supposed to make sure that we never do wrong again. But threat of more suffering wasn't stopping me in the slightest. I felt so self-righteous and justified in my sin. I was busy thinking bad-no, awful-thoughts about a particular person I worked with. I was mulling over just how I would tell him his faults. Even though I knew it wasn't right, knew that in fact I was doing myself harm, it seemed I could not stop grinding over the angry resentment. Christian Science helped me get out of this tangled mess.
The law of God required me to stop reasoning from a physical standpoint. As I prayed, it became obvious that sinful thinking would not be diminished by my "letting off some steam." God does not express self-righteousness, so this was not an option for me as His reflection, either. How does God punish or correct? Not by lazy threats! Doesn't He correct sin by destroying it? By showing us that His creation is wholly pure, sinless man?
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts" (p. 497). The sin of disgraceful thinking stops when the root of it is destroyed. The root in this case was the belief that I, as well as another person, had the ability to be conceited and mean. God gives His creation-gives me-only good qualities, however, so I must be intelligent, graceful, and agreeable. I did not need to agree with a so-called frantic and arrogant attitude, but could immediately agree with the spiritual fact that God is present and I am His likeness, His child-and so was the person I was cross with! Doing so became easier and easier as my study and prayer built a stronger foundation of understanding God's allness. And as I put into practice what I was learning, the kind, merciful nature that God gives His children became more and more prominent in my own behavior.
Christ Jesus was very awake to God's sinless presence. At one point an adulterous woman was about to be stoned. The accusers, brought up short by Jesus' response, which made them examine their own hearts, could not justify harming her. After the accusers left the woman alone with him, Jesus told her, "Go, and sin no more" (John 8:11). Just as she needed to express her sinless, spiritual nature by being faithful to her husband, I needed to be faithful to God. I needed to express my sinless, spiritual identity by loving simplicity, mercy, and grace-by living them and expecting to see them around me. The bad opinion I'd had of the other individual disappeared as I acted according to what God, not self-righteousness and mindless anger, was telling me.
I found freedom from the temptation to commit this sin, not because of impending punishment, but because God is loving and blesses all. The entire situation of working with this person has turned around. Now we help each other courteously.