Can God Protect Us
Juan Carlos Lavigne, C.S., of Olivos, Argentina
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Christian Science lecturer Juan Carlos Lavigne says one can find fulfillment in relying on God for safety and protection. His lecture, "Can God Protect Us?," was given last night, June 4, 1981, in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, sponsored by the members of that church. Mr. Lavigne is from Olivos, Argentina.
Before devoting his full time to the public healing ministry of Christian Science, the lecturer spent 25 years in the advertising field, starting as an artist. As a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, he has lectured in a number of North and South American countries in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
Mr. Lavigne was introduced by Miss Allyn Muth.
An abridged text of the lecture follows:
Once upon a time there was a man who was afraid of everything. He decided that, in order to be safe he would buy a suit of armor.
When he put on the armor, he felt relieved. "Now I feel really protected,'' he thought.
But then a mosquito came along and began to circle around his nose. Waving the mosquito away violently with his arm, he lost his balance and fell to the ground. He never got up again. He was trapped in his own defense system.
There are systems of protection that seem infallible but that fail. Some systems create situations that are more dangerous than those that were originally to be solved. For instance, I'm sure you've heard of medicines that are habit-forming or that can give rise to diseases.
Other protective systems leave us defenseless because they're superseded by something new. Think of it: The same engineering that builds a rocket for our defense creates another rocket to intercept and destroy it.
Human defense systems have greatly progressed since the days of primitive stone axes, good-luck charms, and poultices; but they still cannot offer unfailing security. These systems fail because they would have us rely on things that are not wholly reliable. Human error and chance always seem to come into play.
The Bible - and meeting today's needs
But there have always been people who looked in a totally different direction - who have sought their security through spiritual means. The Bible tells the story of men and women like us who turned naturally to God in search of protection.
There's the Bible account of almost 300 people lost at sea, drifting 14 days during a raging storm. The Apostle Paul prayed to God, and they were saved.
And there's the story about young David, who later became King of Israel. As you remember, David fought an enemy soldier named Goliath. Goliath had made fun of the soldiers every day, boasting that none of them would dare fight him. He had reason to boast: He was a giant, over nine feet tall, and impressively armed. Everyone was afraid of him.
Only a young shepherd boy, David, accepted the challenge.
The king put a suit of armor on David, but then the boy couldn't move because of the enormous weight of the metal.
But David didn't need any armor to feel protected. He reasoned like this: "The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine" (I Sam. 17:37). He took off the useless armor and went to meet the giant.
With only the sling of a shepherd, David faced the giant who had terrified a professional, well-equipped army. By trusting God, he overcame him.
But, you may say, that was in Bible times. Today, here, now, can God protect us?
Can God protect me, you, your husband, your daughter? Your work, your home, your health? Yes! God can protect all of us!
As the evening goes along, I'll tell you of some experiences that happened in our time - experiences that bear witness to the protecting presence of God, at this very moment. These will show how, today, God can protect us from: spiritual death, aggression, and sickness. But first let me clarify some concepts in order to prepare the ground.
Can God protect us? Even Jesus faced this question. It came to his thought, to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, to test God and see if the promise of the Bible was true: that God protects men.
What is the significance of this doubt in the Master's thought? Jesus knew the answer. He immediately uncovered the sin. He saw it hidden in the thought that doubted the protecting ability of God. He recognized it. He called it by name: Satan. Satan is the name of mental suggestion that tries to deny God. The same suggestion that comes to all men, in all ages.
Jesus saw sin as powerless
What did Jesus do? Was he confused? Did he feel guilty? Did he obey sin? No. He didn't accept it as his own. He didn't accept it as something having power over him. With authority he ejected it from his thought. He said: "Get thee hence, Satan" (Matt. 4:10).
Can God protect us? What is God? The Bible teaches that God is Spirit. Without beginning or end. That He fills all space. His omnipresence makes us think of God as infinite, all, and there can be no other presence or power. We can't think of any place where God is not. Do you have faraway loved ones? The presence of God is with them. It doesn't matter how far it seems. We here, too, can acknowledge His divine presence, filling this whole area. Surrounding each one of us.
The Bible also says that God is Love. That is, this same absolute presence that embraces us here and now is all Love. We are in the presence of Love, God. Paul referred to this Love, or matterless Spirit, when he said: "For in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, speaks of the omnipresence of God this way: "God is individual, incorporeal. He is divine Principle, Love, the universal cause, the only creator, and there is no other self-existence." Later she goes on: "He fills all space, and it is impossible to conceive of such omnipresence and individuality except as infinite Spirit or Mind. Hence all is Spirit and spiritual." I've been reading from one of the books she wrote: "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. 331).
Many spiritually minded men and women have grasped the protecting nature of God. Then they have translated their insights into a language comprehensible to the human mind. They have used poetic and symbolic language to share their spiritual discovery with others.
To express his consciousness of omnipresent Love, the Psalmist writes: "If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me" (Ps. 139:8-10).
Life as a spiritual whole
At another time, he speaks of the power of Love and says: "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped" (ibid., 28:7). When referring to Love's tenderness, he speaks of God as of a kind mother tenderly caring for her little children. He uses the image of a bird protecting her chicks. He says: "He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust" (ibid., 91:4).
Our lives are precious to God. You've probably seen those works of art called mosaics. You know, mosaics are designs made of hundreds of beautiful little colored stones. When we go up to the wall where the mosaic is, we see the little stones, their individual shapes and colors. They all have a place to fill, a shape and color to bring to their neighbors and to the overall design. Not one can be left out or replaced with another. Now, if we step back from the wall, we get a different perspective. We see the whole, the work of art.
This is similar to what happens to us when life is viewed with spiritual accuracy. God loves each one of us individually. He supplies us with life, intelligence, joy, justice -abundant and eternal. He expresses the quality of His perfection in each one. With all of us together. He completely expresses His divine image of Love. We cannot be lost. Each one of us is irreplaceable to God. It is He who is willing to care for us.
Earlier I promised to tell you some experiences that give proof of God's protection in our time. Let me begin now. The first experience is my own.
When I was little, I had a warm sense of God's presence and loved Him spontaneously. To me, He had something to do with light and happiness.
With time, however, I was educated in the theological concept of sin; I even learned to put a pebble in my shoe and dedicate this suffering to God, thinking it would please Him. As this false, educated need to suffer increased, the loving God of my childhood faded from view, replaced by the image of an unjust and volatile being.
Seeing infinite good ruled out evil
As I learned to reason more independently, I began to revise my beliefs little by little, until at last I began to think that God was a myth created by men. In this way I lost the consciousness of God.
The loss of religious faith - its diffusion and transference to other spheres of thought - completely converted me into a skeptic. Life held no purpose for me; intellectually, even death seemed something to be desired.
In the midst of this mental depression, my advertising business, which I'd built up through great effort, began to go downhill. In a few months I found that all had been lost. At that moment of great crisis, my wife suggested that I seek God's help in Christian Science.
God? I'd been an atheist for over 20 years!
After many months of resistance, in the middle of great anguish, I yielded to the idea of God. I began to read the book Science and Health, which I mentioned earlier. Christian Scientists read this book every day, along with the Bible.
The reading interested me because the book answered some of my old questions in a rational manner.
For example, the question of suffering. Mary Baker Eddy doesn't accept the belief that God punishes His children, or that he's agreeable to their torment. On the contrary. She explains that suffering is part of sin and that God saves us from both.
Little by little I recovered my consciousness of God's omnipresence. It dawned on me that since God is good, and since that is all there really is, there's no place for evil.
What, then, is evil? Evil is the supposition of something. It is the supposed opposite of infinite good. Evil is something that doesn't exist except in deluded mortal thought.
A false ungodly thought may manifest itself in the form of aggression, for example, and in this way seem very real. But we're capable of understanding that God is not aggressive, nor does He do any evil. Therefore aggression has no true place in His creation, and can be destroyed on that basis.
The universal belief in sin is the demon or suggestion that tries to deny God, the same Satan, or evil one, that Jesus recognized and ordered out of his thought. The false notion of sin carries with it the belief of self-destruction through suffering. If you believe in one, you necessarily believe in the other. This struck me the most of anything I read: that not only does God not punish us, He delivers us from sin and suffering. God is not the cause of our suffering. He is our protector.
Little by little my thought was regenerated. Finally the light and happiness of God dawned and grew again until at last the idea of God's omnipresence once again shone in my consciousness, and I was spiritually reborn. The result was a new and much more fulfilling career - that of a Christian Science practitioner.
How do we all recover our consciousness of God? What is the key to entering into the consciousness of His protecting presence?
The key is humility.
Humility was the key in those two Bible stories I told you earlier. When young David faced the warrior feared by the whole army of Israel, he didn't say: "I am going to conquer him." He said: "The Lord that delivered me ... ," and added that that same God would save him now. He acknowledged that God is the only power present on the battlefield. That thought conferred upon him spiritual power that saved from fear and led to victory.
Humility as a yielding to God
That same mental attitude was held by Paul when he was in the midst of the storm. He, too, through humility, obtained spiritual power and protection.
Humility was the key in my own experience. When I yielded to the idea of God, I received the spiritual power and understanding that later lifted me out of crisis.
Naturally, I'm not referring to false humility. I'm not speaking of the pride disguised as humility that says: "I don't deserve this," or perhaps, "I don't know if I'm up to that," while the thought within is: "At last they're going to find out my true worth!''
Nor am I speaking of fear disguised as humility. Timidity, subservience, helplessness, aren't humility. They are fear.
Humility is the acknowledgment of God. Of his power and majesty. Of His omnipresent consciousness that knows all about us and our loved ones. Humility is the confidence of the son who knows that his father is at his side, caring for him with infinite solicitude. Humility is innocence, which destroys self-sufficient pride, and allows us to say honestly and wholeheartedly: "God, help me. I need you!"
Let me now share another experience that illustrates God's protection in our time. We'll see how the humble acknowledgment of the protecting power of God gives us the spiritual power to dissolve aggression.
As you know, almost everyone seems to believe that there is a law that dogs and cats must fight. It would seem that a similar law often governs relations among men. But I have seen that this law of aggression is false in both cases. I have seen a dog and cat eat and play together every day like two good friends. I have also seen that friendship and togetherness can govern men's lives.
A woman I know was able to prove this very thing. The oldest of her children, a boy of 8, came home from school one day saying that for some time one of his schoolmates had been trying to pick a fight with him. The situation had become increasingly aggressive. The father thought that the best thing to do would be to return the aggression. But the boy felt worse than ever. He was afraid of his schoolmate because the other boy was stronger.
Well now, this happened in our time. It's the story of an act of aggression. In place of the boy, it could be any one of us. In place of the school, it could be our office, a party, the street, our home. Now I ask: Can God protect us from aggression today?
The mother and her son had just begun to go to a Christian Science church, and so they decided to turn to God for the healing of this situation. Together they recalled the simple truths they were learning about God. That God is Love and that there is nothing other than His infinite presence. That His law of Love governs all, and that we can only express the divine oneness and goodness.
From hostility to friendship
They acknowledged that the other boy was also a child of God, created solely to love and live in harmony. They understood that the aggressor wasn't a person but a false concept of man as aggressive or hateful, and that they should resist the temptation to accept this distorted view as something real. They decided to put the whole matter in God's care, affirming that the other boy was also inherently capable of responding to the true law of divine Love.
The next day things changed radically. That night, the boy told his parents that when his schoolmate came over to provoke him, this time he no longer felt afraid of him. He faced up to him and said: "I don't want to fight you, but I would like to be your friend." Do you know what happened? The other boy agreed, and they began to play.
Are we accepting the omnipresence of protective Love if we do not accept His law to govern our lives, as this boy did?
Humility also means: obedience to God's law.
Can we feel God's protective power if we reject or ignore His commandments? Should we feel secure if we live outside the law? Only fulfillment of law affords protection. Disobedience, or an apathetic attitude toward the commandments, places us outside their protecting reach. Then we're left at the mercy of the illusions and disillusionment of sin.
Take the example of traffic lights. They're for protection. They protect everyone: those who drive a car and those who walk. They function according to a code of rules. Each rule is represented by a color. Green means: "Go forward with freedom." Red means: "Danger. Stop." If we are unfamiliar with the color code or disobey it, we are exposed to serious dangers on the street.
If, through our disobedience to the code, our car is dented, we wouldn't think that the traffic light has punished us. Nor would we get down on our knees before it and ask its pardon. The only sensible thing to do would be to change our attitude: learn the law and obey it. It's the same with God's law. If we want its protection, we have to know it and obey it.
Christ Jesus gives us a perfect example of humble obedience to divine law. He said that he came to fulfill the law. He knew the law. In the Sermon on the Mount he analyzes the law profoundly. He goes beyond the letter. He draws out the spiritual content that regenerates thought. When he refers to the commandment "Thou shalt not commit adultery," he makes us see that adultery is at heart a sensual concept in thought. Speaking of the commandment "Thou shall not kill," he shows us that aggressive or hateful thought is the real assassin. And so we begin to understand that the nature of sin, which the commandments come to protect us from, is mental. Sin first occurs in thought. Jealousy, disrespect, and stealing - all must be thought before being put into action.
So we need to learn to choose our thoughts with the same care that we select or accept other things. We choose our food at the market. When preparing it, we throw out whatever is unfit. We check it over before eating it. This is what we have to do with thought: choose carefully before accepting. The commandments help us to do this.
Law doesn't punish: a child healed
God's law doesn't punish; it protects. God doesn't make illness or create suffering. His law, understood, heals. Christ Jesus demonstrated that no law of God causes or sustains disease. He acted in opposition to disease. In obedience to God's law, he healed all kinds of illnesses. He taught his followers to do the same.
Let's reason together for a moment about this. If God made disease, it is part of His creation, and we cannot expect Him to eliminate it. If sickness is part of a punishment given by God, how could we even attempt to alter His justice? If disease is governed by the law of God, what other law can man use to change that law and heal? None. God's law protects us from disease as well.
Let me give you an example. When our third child was just a few months old, one day he began to cry desperately, and his abdomen swelled up in an alarming fashion. Our child's condition gave us a tremendous fright, but the situation eased before long and everything was calm again.
At the time I hadn't yet begun to study Christian Science, so when the same symptoms returned I immediately rushed the baby to a doctor. The doctor examined him, and the diagnosis was that the child had what is called a hernia. He said there was no choice but to operate. To assure ourselves that the diagnosis was correct, we took him to another doctor. He confirmed what had been said previously. In spite of everything, we took him to another doctor, and so on, until five doctors had examined him. All five gave the same diagnosis and agreed that the only solution was to operate.
Since the operation could be put off for some days, my wife asked me if we could have Christian Science treatment through prayer for our child. At that time I thought Christian Science was mere optimism, a pair of spectacles through which to see life as "rosy." You know: escapism, which hides its head like an ostrich to avoid seeing evil. Since there was no immediate danger to the child, I reluctantly agreed to the treatment to please my wife.
Now, this case, too, happened in our time. Something similar could have happened to our neighbors or relatives. Perhaps some one of you has had to face a situation like this. I ask you once again: Can God protect us now? Can God heal His children of disease?
My wife called a Christian Science practitioner. She asked her to pray for our child. The practitioner prayed to recognize the omnipotent power of good, God, which protects.
The swelling and pain vanished. Never again did the symptoms recur. We didn't have to think about an operation anymore. Why? God had shown us His power to heal physical disorder - quickly, surely.
Christianity made practical
The great men and women of Bible times demonstrated profound humility before God. They constantly approached Him - turned to Him in prayer - in search of His guidance. This attitude allowed them to solve their own problems and to help their community.
Christ Jesus offered enormous demonstrations of the protecting power of God. One time he healed 10 people simultaneously of the worst scourge of the age: leprosy. Another time, he saved those traveling with him on a boat from shipwreck by proving God's dominion over natural forces. Later he fed several thousand people. His demonstrations of the power of God were so great that the people wanted to elect him king.
Knowledge of the protecting presence of God and the humble demonstration of it make the Christianity taught by Christ Jesus a practical religion. This scientific, or demonstrable, Christianity can solve today all our problems. Individual or collective. Not just the three experiences I've told you about. Can you see that this protecting Love is always available to us - for any problem? Whether it's alcoholism, unemployment, drought. . . we can apply our understanding of omnipresent God to heal it.
Mary Baker Eddy understood the huge significance of Christianity in its application to all human problems. She, too, turned to God in search of guidance and protection in all her affairs. Her spiritual thought gave her a clear perception of individual or collective problems and their solutions as well.
But Mary Baker Eddy's great, lasting contribution to the well-being of mankind came with her discovery of Christian Science. Through this discovery, she was able to greatly contribute to the rescue of all mankind from suffering and disease. This Science was the wherewithal.
The healing power of the divine Science underlying the teachings and demonstrations of Jesus had been practiced by his followers during the first 300 years or so after his ascension. Then the distinctive element of healing was lost from Christianity. But Mrs. Eddy's lifework changed this. Through her discovery, our age has the opportunity of demonstrating again, in all its power, the protective, healing capacity of omnipresent Love.
This discovery cut through the age-old accumulation of material theories and assumptions to the eternal truth of man's flawless spirituality and God's unchanging goodness and allness. It pointed human thought toward Spirit, and away from matter, as the source of happiness, health, and fulfillment. It marked a turning point in history.
Mrs. Eddy offered this Christian Science to the world. She wrote, taught, and founded a church: The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, which has branches worldwide. The purpose of this church is to ". . . reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing" ("Manual of The Mother Church," p. 17).
Can you imagine what it means to have practical Christianity available in our age? A Christianity that teaches us to solve individual and collective problems through our understanding of God? Think of the opportunities this offers those who yearn to serve mankind. Here's something that enables us to carry forward our ideals! Can you imagine what good might be achieved if, together, we increased our understanding and our ability to demonstrate God's healing power?
Divine presence does protect
Can God protect us?
This whole time we have been considering various aspects of this important question. We have seen Jesus' attitude. With the help of the Psalmist's beautiful imagery we have approached the concept of the infinity, power, and tenderness of the divine presence. We've talked, too, of humility as the key to entering the consciousness of the omnipresence of God. Together we've seen the triumphant examples, both in the past and in our own time, of the protecting power of divine Love in all kinds of situations. Can God protect us?
Yes! God does protect all of us, always, now!