The 17-year-old was sitting slouched in his chair, looking completely bored. He was a resident of a government correctional facility, following a criminal conviction. That day, he was one of eight teens at a weekly meeting with me and another Christian Scientist. Looking intently at each teen, my friend said very clearly, “You are good!”
Suddenly the one who seemed not to be listening sat up, and his eyes filled with tears. He was clearly moved. As I watched the effect of this simple message, I considered the transformative power in knowing that each of us is, in fact, inherently good.
My friend certainly wasn’t suggesting that criminal behavior is good. Rather, wrongdoing isn’t consistent with the purely spiritual view of things. That view – the spiritual reality – springs from the understanding that God is our creator. The Bible states, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). So our real identity is entirely spiritual and good. This is a universal truth; it applies to everyone. God did not, could not, create a criminal.
Sometimes people make bad decisions that may even lead them into a life of crime. But God knows us as spiritual and pure, not flawed mortals, and God’s infinite love for us can reach and reform even the heart of a criminal.
Christ Jesus told a story about tares and wheat that illustrates that our true, good nature is intact no matter what (see Matthew 13:24-30). The story describes a planted wheat field, unadulterated and good. But then tares (weeds that look like wheat) are sown in the field. At harvest time, though, the tares are seen for what they are and weeded out, leaving the pure wheat.
I like to think of the wheat as our identity as God’s children. Tares can be seen as bad qualities or actions. An important point is that the tares aren’t really part of the wheat, which remains intact. The tares don’t contaminate the wheat or keep it from being what it is. They don’t stop or retard the wheat’s growth.
The recognition that God’s creation is inherently good, untouched by evil, softens hardened hearts. It brings hope and opens the door for reformation. Referring to Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this publication, writes in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Science separates the wheat from the tares ...” (p. 300).
This is not about excusing or ignoring bad behavior, but discarding the weeds of desperation, despair, and hatred. Amazing things can happen when we recognize the unalterable goodness of our true nature as God’s creation. This is much more than a few comforting words; it heals and transforms character, thereby changing lives.