During my master’s program in philanthropy, I had the opportunity to speak with a group of incarcerated men who were organizing a walk-a-thon on the prison yard to raise money for a nonprofit organization. Surprisingly to me, those who are incarcerated frequently participate in charitable endeavors. We discussed the meaning of philanthropy and different ways it can be expressed. I asked them, “You know what you are, right?” Dead silence. “You are philanthropists.” They had been philanthropists before I met them – they just didn’t know it. And they were so happy to be redefined in the moment.
How many times do we let circumstances define who we are? We might be labeled sick, lonely, unloved, poor, misunderstood, depressed. Some of those incarcerated men had been labeled low-life, thug, and worse. But my study of Christian Science has helped me see that no matter how heavy a negative label may feel, we have Bible-based authority to reject those limitations.
Jesus showed us our true nature, that we are made in God’s image, as stated at the beginning of the Bible. This was evidenced in Jesus’ encounter with a man who hadn’t walked for 38 years (see John 5:2-9). Right then and there, Jesus healed the man, who immediately got up and walked. But he didn’t tell the man he would make him whole by “fixing” his legs. Rather, behind this healing was the spiritual fact that God, from the very beginning, has created each of us whole, spiritual, intact.
As we realize to some degree this truth – that God has made us not flawed, but spiritual and pure – we experience it in greater degrees, too. This doesn’t get us out of redeeming our wrongs, but it puts us on a path to healing of character as well as physical problems.
Each of us has the ability to put aside even long-standing labels and accept a more inspired view of ourselves and others. This leads to transformation and healing that stem from the realization that we are spiritual, whole, and worthy – just the way God made us.
Adapted from the May 6, 2021, Christian Science Daily Lift podcast.