Years ago I attended the Sorbonne University in Paris. Because of the city’s awe-inspiring cityscapes and exquisite buildings, I fell in love with great architecture. So many buildings in Europe and elsewhere are hundreds of years old. It can be easy to imagine that such structures will last forever, though of course they cannot.
But I’ve been learning in my study of Christian Science of a structure that is actually untouchable, indestructible. It’s not a physical building; its substance is divine beauty, nobility, and spirituality that can never truly be destroyed.
Mary Baker Eddy, a devout student of the Bible who dedicated her life to honoring God, explains the nature of this structure in the profound spiritual definition of “Church” found in her seminal work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” The definition begins, “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle” (p. 583).
The words “Truth,” “Love,” and “Principle” are capitalized in that sentence because they refer to God. This points to a concept of church that, rather than being made of bricks, stone, or wood, is above all a spiritual idea – one in which we honor God in our thoughts and hearts. That makes church a living presence and power. And if the idea of church is divinely established, it must be eternal, like the Divine. It can never be destroyed or harmed but rather is and always will be an ongoing, uninterrupted activity.
This gives me such comfort because it means that church is something we always have with us. We’re living it when God-inspired qualities such as truthfulness, love, and fairness are the foundation of our thoughts and guide our actions.
Science and Health goes on to expand that definition of “Church,” describing its effect on the world. It includes elevating and uplifting humanity, lifting us out of limited, materially based thinking with the light of spiritual understanding and healing.
We discover this true sense of church as we open our hearts to thinking and living consistently with God’s laws – with our real identity as the expressions of His love, goodness, and peace. And so we could say the purpose of church is to share and declare the Word of God, which brings healing. As the biblical figure David wrote, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!... He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalms 107:15, 20).
This healing concept of church was a great comfort to me when I faced a hereditary condition of a diseased, swollen, and infected leg. I immediately turned to the spiritual laws of divine Truth, Love, and Principle. I felt safe knowing that God’s love was governing me, that what God knew about me was the only truth – that as His spiritual daughter I am whole and protected.
I stayed in this mental realm of church for a month, consistently declaring that the Word of God, and not the situation with my leg, determines my real identity. Even though at one point the condition grew worse, I felt such trust in God’s care.
At the end of the month I was able to attend the Thanksgiving service at my local Church of Christ, Scientist. I don’t think it was any coincidence that I discovered my leg was completely healed as I sat – literally and figuratively – in church. That was over a decade ago, and the problem hasn’t returned. (To read more about this healing, see my testimony titled “Skin condition – healed” in the Jan. 2009 issue of The Christian Science Journal.)
As a spiritual concept in our hearts, church is relevant and powerful today and forever. Its true value is not confined to a building, whether empty or full, old or new. A friend said to me the other day, “You know, it’s not the amount of people in the church that’s important; it’s the amount of church in the people.” As we learn about God as the divine Truth and Love that structures our lives and we yield to the divine Principle guiding each and every one of us as children of God, we will find ourselves in this indestructible haven of peace, the spiritual idea known as church.