When someone has witnessed a crime and testifies in court, he or she may be placed in the witness protection program, meaning that the individual is provided with a new identity and moved elsewhere to start a new life, having no more ties to the former life. The individual thus becomes safe from any possible retribution for their testimony in court.
That’s the analogy I used when an inmate asked me about Christian Science during a church service at a county jail where I was volunteering. Like the witness protection program, Christian Science brings to light an entirely new sense of identity. In this case, though, it’s actually our spiritual, eternal, God-given identity; and this helps us leave the old habits and ways of thinking behind. The Bible says, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32, New King James Version).
I went on to explain that even though the inmate needed to finish his jail sentence, he could find a whole new way of thinking and acting – one that reforms the heart and brings freedom from resentment. He could gain an entirely new view of himself as the child of God – as the perfect, spiritual idea of divine Love.
The Bible’s account of God’s view of His creation says, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). Each one of us, as the creation of God, is very good. Even if we haven’t acted consistently with this, reformation is never out of reach, because this is the eternal truth of our identity.
When a mob confronted Christ Jesus, demanding that a woman be stoned to death for committing adultery, his response was to turn away from that scene. The Bible says that he “stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground.” Finally, he arose and stated, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:6, 7). And the accusers, chastened by the knowledge of their own sins, left one by one.
When there was no one left but the woman, he asked her, “Has no one condemned you?” She replied that no one had. And Jesus put the entire event into perspective by saying, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:10, 11, NKJV). If she would let God govern her, she would be free from sin and would carry no stigma from her past.
This points to the truth that God has given all of us a better, purer identity than the kind of mortal identity that we are used to associating with ourselves. “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy, states: “Man is not made to till the soil. His birthright is dominion, not subjection” (pp. 517-518).
Everyone has the ability to find this new, or true, spiritual identity and experience its redeeming influence. One never has to do without good in life. Even those who have committed crimes can discover, and learn to live in accord with, a newfound spiritual identity. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:7, NKJV). Gaining a new identity, a new birth, is like what the witness protection program is designed to do. This kind of rebirth, though, elevates us to behold and express our permanently established, divinely bestowed identity.
Once we have discovered this, we can never go back to the way things were before. We have been made new. That old identity is no longer recognizable. We have embraced our new “neighborhood” – our eternal, God-given identity, made in His image – complete, cared for, and protected. This sets the stage for redemption and progress.
Adapted from an article in the Nov. 20, 2017, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.