Does God love us only if we deserve it?

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

During my freshman year of college, I signed up for an algebra course. For several reasons (none of them good), I skipped classes until the end of the semester!

The final exam was only two days away. And I got pretty frightened that my scholarship would be in jeopardy if I failed. I knew the final exam would cover about 200 pages of text. I'd studied only 20.

When I mentioned the problem to my mother, she brought up the subject of prayer. When I told her how I had created this problem myself, and did not deserve God's help, she still suggested that I try prayer, and that I call a Christian Science practitioner to help me. The woman I called didn't criticize. Didn't say anything negative or make any predictions. She just told me to do what I needed to do in preparing for the exam, and said that she would pray.

I can still remember starting to study those 200 pages the day before the test. I don't remember having ever before studied so peacefully and learned so clearly. I finished at 2 a.m. and took the exam later that morning. And I got a B+.

Now I think I understand a little more how that woman must have prayed. She must not have thought of me as just a young man who'd acted stupidly and must suffer for it. Having learned more about what Christian Science teaches prayer is, I'm sure she saw in me what God saw - that I was a spiritual expression of the divine Mind. When used as a synonym for God, Mind includes all the intelligence that there is. All real wisdom, consciousness, and knowledge. This woman must have known that these spiritual qualities had always made up my identity, even though I hadn't been acting that way. Her prayer brought such clear evidence that God, who is also divine Love, embraced me. And that negative characteristics like irresponsibility and procrastination had no place in the identity God have given me.

For my part, I had been humble enough to recognize the error of my ways. I think this helped make me receptive to God's intelligence, and more able to express it when studying and taking the exam.

So, did I deserve divine help in that predicament of my own creating? The Bible says that "God is love" (I John 4:16). He never stops loving, and He never stops seeing the perfect child He has created. Our mistakes don't change God's love. But His love causes us to give up traits of character that aren't part of our true identity. His merciful truth is always available, not just to an irresponsible student but to anyone who ends up in an undesirable situation - even when it has to do with the consequences of his or her own bad decisions. Our part is to be willing to give up the wrong behavior and do what's right. And to humbly turn to God for help.

I wish I could say that was the last time I chose to do the wrong thing. But in similar circumstances, I've had further opportunity to pray for God's mercy and justice. I've found them by deciding to love Him more than my merely personal desires, and by not allowing myself to be deceived by thoughts I've come to learn are contrary to God's good will.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote: "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" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 497).

Sinful behavior may obscure our view of God, but it never changes reality for one moment. When we come to seek God's truth sincerely, He always is right here, being Himself, loving each one of us as He created us. Perhaps the most beautiful thing is that the lessons we learn from our mistakes become the bedrock of spiritual understanding - the knowledge of God's nature and relation to us as Father and Mother. In that knowledge, we find both the desire and the ability to be better.

You can find in-depth articles about Christian Science in a monthly magazine, The Christian Science Journal.

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