Christ - the Light Shining in Darkness
Robert W. Jeffery, C.S.B., of Franklin, Michigan
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
"The Bible has been the chart of life for millions," says Christian Science lecturer Robert W. Jeffery. "Its light can show us our place in God's tender plan." His lecture, "Christ the Light Shining in Darkness," was given at the Strand Theater, Uphams Corner, in the Dorchester section of Boston, on Saturday. It was sponsored by Churches of Christ, Scientist, in Boston.
Mr. Jeffery is a lifelong Christian Scientist who resigned from a career in engineering and management to devote his full time to the healing ministry of Christian Science. He is also a teacher of Christian Science. His appointment to The Christian Science Board of Lectureship has taken him to many cities to lecture on his Church's commitment to Christian healing.
Mrs. Arnise Brown, a member of Second Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston (Roxbury), introduced Mr. Jeffery.
An abridged text of the lecture follows:
Human experience involves many kinds of darkness. We may even be in the dark about life's purpose, and what salvation is all about! But we don't need to stay there! We can rejoice over the prophet Isaiah's words: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined" (Isa. 9:2).
The navigator of a ship lost in the middle of the ocean would rejoice if he saw lights that he could recognize. For centuries seaman have used the stars to determine their position, and finding it, have confidently charted their course.
If we're at sea with a swirl of problems tossing us around, we need only determine our true position in God's universe. Then we'll be able to chart a course to better health, family harmony, job fulfillment, or whatever right goal we have. The Bible has all the light we need to find our place in God's tender plan. Christian Science has come to help us focus this light toward the practical solution of the problems of modern living.
Like all true Christians, Christian Scientists revere Jesus for the perfect example he set in following the light.
Christian Science includes an expanded view of the Christ - not limited to the personality of our Master, Christ Jesus, but a still available light, divine Truth speaking directly to human consciousness - to you and me. It tells us the Christ was the divine influence animating Jesus, and it's still reaching out to animate you and me.
What is the nature of this great light?
The navigator knows he can't follow lights attached to his own ship. So we don't find the Christ, our spiritual beacon, in mere self-regenerated positive thinking. Like the starlight the navigator uses, the Christ light comes from a consistent, describable, eternal source beyond one's self. But unlike the starlight, the Christ affects us as light affects plants. It's the power of God's love to draw us back to good - to comfort, guide, and heal us. Its light is no harsh spotlight to incinerate sinners. Its beam is precise, but also soft, full of hope and joy. It's not mere emotion, nor is it bizarre. It's radical but not fanatical.
Let me tell you how a tiny glimpse of the Christ light helped me. I was a newly promoted chief engineer of a large hydraulics company. I suddenly found myself with a technical problem. It had defied solution by virtually our whole engineering department, in spite of several months of hectic work. Not only was my job at stake, but the very survival of our business was in jeopardy, because several million dollars was involved. We couldn't even determine the reason the product was failing.
Finally, in desperation, we suggested to our customer a modification we thought might help. He was willing to try anything but he wanted us to make the change without telling the United States Navy, which was the ultimate customer. Everyone approved the plan but me. I vetoed the scheme on the basis that it wasn't honest to do this work under cover. My colleagues were despondent, because it seemed as if we had abandoned our only hope.
That evening when I went home, I really had to wrestle with myself: "Now look here, Bob, are you just being a goody-goody? You have no solution for this problem and your job is on the line." That devilish voice persisted. "What difference does it make if it's not honest; if this is the only solution you have, you'd better use it." Have you ever heard a voice like that?
Divine help comes with honesty
Then the light of the Christ broke through that darkness. It came to me through a passage I had read many times before in the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy: "Honesty is spiritual power. Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help" (p.453). What would you have done in my shoes? I certainly didn’t want to forfeit divine help, because our human efforts weren't getting the job done. When I really accepted this statement as based on a law of God, I gained my peace and courage to stick with my decision.
Within a few days our man at the customer's plant suddenly had a new
insight on some evidence we had seen before. Within another few days we had the
solution. It was so
simple. It only required drilling one hole in a piece of pipe; so we modified and delivered the entire order in just a few weeks. It was now apparent that the original plan would have been a costly disaster.
How did this solution to our problem come about? Was it an accident? A special favor from God? I tend to view it in terms of Jesus’ statement; "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32) - free from all difficulties or impasses. But can you know the truth and be involved in a lie at the same time?
Honesty is a primary quality of Truth, or God. When we follow the leading of Truth - by putting honesty above expediency, in my case - we find our position as agents of God. In this position we naturally inherit all good.
I didn't do anything complicated - I just knew that "honesty is spiritual power" - and knew it well enough to put my job on the line for it. This truth made me and my company free.
You see the need is to know the truth not just through an abstract intellectual recitation of it, but so well that it becomes a guiding light in our lives. Someone who knows how to play the piano doesn't just talk about pushing the keys down. He sits down and produces music.
A precise Science
To know the truth is to so understand and love God that our lives become the music God has written for us to play.
But can we always expect good results, or is religion the hit-or-miss groping many believe it to be?
Let’s go back to our thoughts about seamen. Have you wondered how a navigator is able to determine his position so accurately from stars so far away? He takes a sighting on a star and knows he's somewhere along a line, called a "line of position”. He sights on another star and plots another "line of position”, where the two cross is his true position. He plots at least one more to ensure accuracy. The discovery of the “line of position” was the breakthrough that turned this age-old art into a science. This discovery was made only about 140 years ago.
Another discovery, made about 30 years later, was the breakthrough that turned religion into a universal, precise Science.
This discovery, known as Christian Science, sets forth the divine Principle known and applied by Jesus: the divine laws of health, happiness, and salvation.
Mary Baker Eddy was the Discoverer of Christian Science. Who was this woman? Was she just a philosopher with an interesting theory? No. From childhood she loved church and had complete faith in God. But that wasn't enough to enable her to follow Jesus' command to heal the sick in his name.
Her life was filled with stormy seas, including widowhood in her early 20s; having her only son wrenched from her when he was just 11; chronic poor health; and at one point sticking to the wreck of a marriage until propelled into divorce by her husband's infidelity.
Mrs. Eddy endured such personal difficulties through light she had gained from the Bible. She researched the Scriptures deeply to find the Science underlying Jesus' healing method.
Like any true scientist, she knew that her evolving understanding of reality would have to be tested carefully in the laboratory of human experience. So she began to heal others, and then to teach Christian Science. Some of those she taught had been well established in the clergy and in the medical profession.
But the rapid success of her work also stirred some shrieking winds. These included attacks on her by several ambitious students seeking power; by some ministers offended by her unorthodox scriptural insights; and by some doctors alarmed at her unique therapeutic system.
But that's not entirely unlike the persecution Jesus faced and prophesied for his followers, is it?
She could have pulled down her sails. But, firm at her post of duty to relieve mankind's sufferings, the attacks propelled her into founding a unique church squarely in the mainstream of Jesus teachings - following not only his words but his works.
One radical course resulting from her dauntless seamanship was the ordination of the Bible and Science and Health as the pastor of her church. Such moves were typical of her attempts to turn her students away from blind cultish following. They showed her sincerity in urging her students constantly back to the Bible, and to Jesus as the perfect life example. She said repeatedly: ". . . follow your Leader only so far as she follows Christ" ("Message to The Mother Church for 190l,"p.34).
To determine our position and be able to chart a happy lifecourse let's see what the Christ light shows us about God, man, and prayer.
The Science of Christ identifies a number of primary names for God, which explain His nature. In addition to Truth and Love, Mrs. Eddy's Bible research led her to know God, for instance, as Spirit, divine Mind, and absolute Principle. These terms enable us to really know God. They don't force us to visualize Him as some big man up "there" somewhere.
Identifying individual facets of God's nature throws a whole new light on the Bible. Consider Moses' perception of God as I AM (see Ex. 3:13,14). Does that name I AM give you a clear picture of God? It never meant much to me until I realized how many times a day a voice whispers in our inward ear: "I am sick, I am tired, I am broke." What a beacon of hope when we hear God say, "I am your only I AM the ever-present basis of your identity." The lying suggestion "I'm afraid, I'm unloved, I'm lonely" is silenced when divine Love tenderly whispers, "I am the source of your safety, your companionship, your attractiveness." The fearful thought "I'm ignorant and confused" flees when divine Mind says, "I am your intelligence." How quickly weakness is replaced by strength, and despair by inspiration, when we identify ourselves with divine Spirit.
Now what does the Christ reveal to us about man?
The physical scientist - the anthropologist, biologist, or physiologist - begins his reasoning on this subject from what he sees with the physical senses. But the Christian Scientist, taking his cue from the Bible, begins with what God knows about man.
Man's nature is defined in the very first chapter of the Bible: "God created man in his own image" (Gen. 1:27). Shouldn't we be able to learn about that image - man -from what we've already learned about God - His names or nature? God is Spirit; therefore man is spiritual, not material. God is Love, therefore in eternal truth, man is forever loving, pure and unselfish - never hateful, sinful, or willful. God is Mind; therefore man truly reflects unlimited intelligence and wisdom, never ignorance or blindness. God is Life; therefore man, His image, is vigorous, interesting, and alert, never lazy, dull, or dead.
As we start our reasoning about man from what God is, we see that man is not a "thing" but an idea - a beautiful spiritual idea of God.
If this concept of man as an idea is hard to swallow in one bite, let's step back and consider another kind of idea - a mathematical idea - called a number.
We're probably all in perfect agreement on what numbers are, but let’s just prove that by talking about the number three. How many straight lines does the number three have? Some will say it has no straight lines - that it's composed of two half circles stacked on top of each other. Others may say it has three straight vertical lines. Or five straight lines - three vertical with a roof and a floor, as the Romans described it. Wait a minute, what's going on here? We can’t even get agreement on something as simple as the number three.
Dispelling the shadow of mortality
The problem we've gotten ourselves into is that we haven't been talking about the number three at all, have we? We've been talking about various symbols used to represent it. In actuality none of us have ever seen a three, because a number can't be seen. A number is an idea. It becomes meaningful only when we look past the symbol to see the idea being represented. Then we see its usefulness, power, predictability, indestructibility. Because it's an idea, nothing can alter it.
How about the idea called “man"? The physical senses have never seen the man that is our true self. But that doesn’t mean that when we accept our selfhood as idea we lose our identity, or become less useful. Quite the contrary, life becomes meaningful only as we look beyond mortal appearances to see ourselves as spiritual ideas. Then we find our real power and beauty, real usefulness and indestructibility.
Then what about this mortal body we're carrying around? And this mind that is said to inhabit the skull? What about this man who's a mixture of good and evil, harmony and discord?
Is it possible this is a mere shadow of ourselves? Just suppose you had never had any perception of yourself except by looking at your shadow, and you had been taught that it was the real you. In the morning you'd be very tall and would be aiming toward the west. In the afternoon just as tall but aimed toward the east. At noon you'd be very short. In times of darkness you'd be completely lost. What an identity crisis that would be!
Cold human logic describes man as little more than a complex electrochemical mechanism, very dependent on time. But this view is concentrating on a shadow-man. The true man, a spiritual idea, is not described in terms of time, because he is eternal. He knows no birth or death: and his strength, beauty, and usefulness never wane.
If all we can see of man is a mortal body and limited mind, the mere shadow of our true being, it's no wonder life is confusing and often dark. Most of life's complexities and difficulties, fears and frustrations, come from the mistaken belief that we are merely mortals.
How did we get into the habit of believing ourselves to be mortals, anyway? For one thing, we've been educated to believe it's about all we've got! Second, our mortal self seems more tangible than our spiritual identity. There's still a third answer. We like our shadow-bodies, so we don't bother looking for our true being. We think physique and personality give us our identity, and happiness.
But there are times when our shadow - the mortal sense of selfhood - isn't so much fun. It tells us we're in pain, or that we're lonely, frustrated, or broke. Then we want to do something about it. What can we do about a shadow we don't like? One thing we can do is look away from it. So some people look instead at other people's shadows. They get busy watching others perform, filling their time with nonstop entertainment or gossip.
Others try to free themselves from the mortal shadow by turning out the lights - by alcohol, drugs, sleep, human meditation systems, even thoughts of suicide. But with the lights out we not only lose sight of our shadow, we can't find our real identity, either.
To effectively control shadows we need to understand what produces them. They're the result of inadequate lighting.
We believe we're mortals because we don't have enough light - the Christ light of spiritual understanding.
The way to get rid of shadows is to raise the level of illumination on all sides. When we come into the full light of the Christ, we'll see our spiritual selfhood, with no more shadows of lack, pain, or other discord.
And the light we need is already here! We don't need to wait another minute to accept it. We find that in direct proportion to our acceptance of this Christ light do we have healthy bodies and happy lives.
How Lazarus was raised
Jesus told us how to go about it. He said," Ye must be born again" (John 3:7). To me this means to challenge the mistaken concept of our origin, with the clear light of the Christ. Are we, indeed, the product of the physical action of other mortals? Or are we what God says we are: created in the image and likeness of Spirit; the full expression of divine Mind, the eternal reflection of divine Love? Let's go back, get that correct view of ourselves. It's not self-destruction we need, but enlightened self-instruction.
We now have two points to use in determining our true, position in God's universe: a new, expansive view of God, and the Christly illumination of man. Now let's take a look at prayer.
Let's look at one step in Jesus' raising of Lazarus. It's recorded by John, who says this: "And Jesus lifted up his eyes" (John 11:41). What was going on in this case? All those around Lazarus' tomb were accepting what the physical senses were telling them: a picture of death, hopelessness, finality. Lazarus' own sister had shortly before told Jesus, in effect, not to bother with the case because it was too late. Now Jesus was very interested in this case, but he was not interested in that physiological diagnosis. It wasn't going to get him to change his method of treatment one bit.
Instead he lifted his eyes above what the physical senses were telling him, and then we're told he said: "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." Nothing had changed to the physical senses. Lazarus was still in the tomb, yet Jesus was satisfied that his prayer had been answered.
What do you suppose he had prayed for, which was so clearly answered? Isn't that like asking the question, What had Jesus seen when he lifted up his eyes? Hadn't he seen the clear light of the Christ, reassuring him of what he already knew and was progressively demonstrating? Jesus knew that God is eternal Life and that man derives his life from God. If God is Life, there can be no absence of life, no termination of life. And Jesus wasn't dealing in abstractions or future possibilities. Jesus knew that Lazarus, at that very moment, was indeed the man of God's creating.
Example proves effective today
Lazarus was not what the physical senses claimed him to be, merely a mortal capable of both living and dying. Lazarus was what God created him to be - the eternal expression of indestructible Life. Because Jesus fully accepted this true view of God and man as presented by the Christ light, he had his evidence of healing. And that evidence was first and foremost spiritual - an enlightened mental conviction. Jesus' enlightened awareness of the reality of life and the consequent impossibility of death was the answer to his prayer. On the strength of this renewed conviction Jesus was able to speak with authority to the physical picture and wake Lazarus from that dream called death.
Perhaps this goes just a little way toward explaining why Christian Scientists generally are not interested in medical diagnosis. It's not because we're afraid of doctors. It's not because we don't love doctors for all they're trying to do for mankind. It's not because we have no concern or compassion for our loved ones. It's because we’ve learned a lesson from Jesus' example: What we need is not to gain more information about the shadow, but to lift our eyes to see the spiritual facts about God and man. Then we to, can speak with authority to the physical picture the way Jesus did and the way he taught and commanded his true followers to do.
That raising of Lazarus is more than just an inspiring example of what Jesus could do. He promised that all who understand his words and use them to guide their lives can do his works. Millions of modern-day healings resulting from the application of this divinely scientific method of prayer by folks just like you and me bear witness that this promise is being fulfilled today on a widespread, consistent basis. Its beginning footsteps are simple; it's all found in the Bible as supported and illumined by Science and Health.
But let's not kid ourselves. To be master of life's storms does require some labor, and some duty. The labor includes daily study of these books, to gain an ever clearer understanding of our position as God's spiritual ideas.
The "duty” of Christian Science includes prayer. But prayer isn't something we do with our lips - it's what we do with our lives. The life style that constitutes praying without ceasing is one that is based on the Golden Rule, and on the first commandment: "Thou shall have no other gods before me" (Ex. 20:3).
What's needed to stay on course
The Christian Science concept of obeying the first commandment includes conforming our motives, thoughts, goals, and actions, including our method of healing, to the teachings of Christ Jesus.
The mariner who has plotted his course in accordance with the rules of navigation needs to meticulously follow that course if he is to arrive safely at his destination. He knows that even a small deviation, if persisted in long enough, could take him far off course. So he rechecks his position daily and adjusts his course accordingly.
Christian Science asks no more than that. Just a daily study to learn more of our relation to God, and an effort to keep our lives aligned with that growing understanding.
But what if we've gotten off course? The seaman blown off course by a hurricane would reestablish his position, and chart a new one. And we can do the same.
But it requires sticking to that course in every daily decision. And Christian Scientists have been criticized for just this - for sticking faithfully to the healing course indicated by the Christ.
Not knowing that we're following a well-marked pathway, some think that our turning to God for healing instead of to medical methods is some sort of fanatical sacrifice. The question is often asked, "Shouldn't we make use of the abilities God has given us, and take advantage of the very best methods for treatment known today?" No one can argue with that. But we're convinced the greatest ability God has given us is the ability to understand and trust Him "who healeth all thy diseases" (Ps. 103:3). Is there a modern drug or medical technique more effective or safer than Jesus' method of healing?
Realizing God's supremacy brings healing
I know of a nine year old girl who found out how scientifically reliable Jesus' method is. After two operations for mastoids, and on the eve of a third - which was expected to leave her partly deaf - she and her mother diligently studied a copy of Science and Health that had been given them by a relative. They paid particular attention to a passage known as "the scientific statement of being," which affirms the supreme reality of Spirit, of God, and the consequent unreality and powerlessness of matter. The next morning both ears had drained and she was completely healed. I know that the healing was complete and permanent, because that girl later became my wife, and she hears everything.
To govern our lives by following the Christ light may not always be the popular thing to do, since the world is still largely in the dark as to God's ability and willingness to heal all who call on Him. John foretold that. He opens his Gospel telling of the light God has for man, and then says: "And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5). But those who are getting a glimpse of this great light and using it quietly, meekly, but persistently are finding this method to be the most natural and effective means for healing.
At the beginning of this lecture we pointed out a reason for rejoicing, even in the darkest of problems. The basis of this hope is that God has provided a light to guide us out of darkness. We noted that the first step is to find our true position in God's universe. We've taken a step today by learning that God is a consistently good presence, and we are already His indestructible ideas, not the shadowlike mortals that we appear to be.
We've seen that prayer is the mental effort we put forth to let this great 1ight guide us; that it's not wishful thinking or saying a lot of words.
On the basis of this we all have divine authority to still the shrieking winds of personal strife and emotional stress. We can calm the mountainous waves of economic and medical predictions. We can cut across the currents of peer pressure and social codes that run counter to the good God has for all of us.
And what is our unfailing help in charting a happy life-course? It's Christ - the light shining in darkness!