Putting make-over missions in perspective

A Christian Science perspective.

Some real goodness is emerging on TV reality shows these days. Stick with us. That wasn’t a misprint!

What we mean to say is: There’s often some good in watching a house or restaurant restored to its former glory, harried parents being helped by an expert nanny who doles out equal parts verbal discipline and hugs, or a financially strapped career woman suddenly getting the donated wardrobe she needs. “Before” and “after” montages appeal to our desire to see results, and can hint at the beauty of divine Soul and at the orderliness of divine Principle.

But it’s also wise to be watchful of how enamored we are with this type of change. Adjustments like these do sometimes come about through a battle of wills – the strongest will often prevailing for a time. Sometimes there’s no way to tell if changes we’ve seen on the surface have taken deep root, and often the experts on these programs admit they are only sharing their own techniques, and counsel that constant maintenance work needs to be done to keep things in balance.

Which raises the question: What does Christian Science have to contribute to the concept of betterment? The answer must be a recognition that the Christ is the true Redeemer. The Christ is the message that communicates God’s deep love for us but also insists we listen and follow. The Christ is the influence that breaks through in even the most hopeless circumstances and produces lasting results. And the most beautiful part of all is that we don’t have to activate the Christ through human expertise or ego. Jesus, whose entire life exemplified the Christ, had this to say about a too-prescriptive approach to taking charge: “Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish. Then the outside will also be clean” (Matthew 23:26, New International Reader’s Version). And Mary Baker Eddy wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “We must beware of making clean merely the outside of the platter” (p. 382).

Could it be that what we long to see is not just a sparkling house or a family who follows the rules, but the Christly nature of each person? When we claim this, and recognize that it is a part of each of us, change is often less protracted and laborious. Change becomes the byproduct of a life more closely in tune with God and with what He sees about His children.

A matter-based battle to tidy up our lives, and other people’s lives, can feel either rewarding or frustrating. But we can yield to the awareness that God’s “expertise” truly rules and maintains, even as we strive to humbly follow through with the guidance that is communicated to us from the Christ. So while there may be no harm in enjoying a positive “make-over mission” now and then, let’s also recognize, above all, that “in ourselves we are not able to claim anything for ourselves. The power to do what we do comes from God” (II Corinthians 3:5, New International Reader’s Version).

From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.