God’s Mandate to Live

 

Joanne Shriver Leedom, C.S.B., of Dallas, Texas

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

A young shoemaker in Lynn, Massachusetts, was in bed over six months with a hip condition.  As a boy he'd been severely injured by a fall on a wooden spike.  But now, complications set in, and his condition looked hopeless.  The attending physician told the family he could do no more, the patient was dying.

Just at that moment a woman entered the home.  She spoke to the doctor on his way out.  Then she went to the man's bedside and began to pray.  After a few moments there was a radical change.  A healthy color came into his face, and he fell asleep, breathing naturally.  In about ten minutes he opened his eyes and said, "I feel like a new man. My suffering is all gone."

That afternoon he got up, dressed, and ate with his family.  The next day he was out in the yard, and in two weeks back at work, the hip condition completely healed.  A relative later wrote that from then on he worked every day, was never known to be in bed again with any sickness, and lived to be over eighty years old. 1

What happened in that sickroom?  The stage was set for death.  But there was a last minute change in this script, in what might be called this death program.  God's law of infinite Life set aside the hopelessness of disease and death.  A full recovery took place, because God's mandate for man is to live.

As some of you know, the woman who came to the shoemaker's bedside more than a century ago was Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science.  A few years before, she'd faced a severe crisis of her own.  In a time of extreme physical and mental anguish she'd reached out to God.  The result was not only her own healing, but the beginning of a divine revelation that was to reinstate primitive Christian healing for all mankind — that pure, spiritual healing practiced and taught by Christ Jesus.

Mrs. Eddy learned that life isn't mere physical existence.  It's God Himself.  In fact, she used the word "Life" as a synonym for God.  Man, she saw, is actually spiritual and reflects Life, God, his divine source.

She also found her discovery confirmed in the first chapter of the Bible — that record of man created in God's own image and likeness.  Here was God's plan for the spiritual man that He made, a plan already complete.  It includes God's blessing on His spiritual creation.  There's no pain, no despair, no death in His divine plan.

God's eternal mandate to man is found in this first chapter of Genesis that records creation as God conceived it.  The Bible says, "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them. Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it."2  And God gave man dominion over all the earth.

As the true nature of God dawned on Mrs. Eddy, she glimpsed God's blueprint for living.  She found God to be the creative divine Principle that structures all life and calls it good.  Christian Science is this spiritual discovery of God and man as they really are. It's God's view of man — divinely created to live.  And this is what I'm going to talk to you about tonight. First, that life is man's purpose. And then that life is law-governed. And finally that life is forever unopposed.

 

LIFE IS MAN'S PURPOSE

From Adam to Atom

But, a moment ago I spoke of a death program that seemed to be in effect for the shoemaker before he was healed.  This word "programming" is becoming more familiar to us every day.  It's part of the computer revolution that's having such a helpful effect on the way we do even ordinary things, like buying groceries or making airline reservations.

But if you've ever been the victim of a computer mistake, you instantly know what I mean when I say that the computer has no intelligence of its own.  It can't think or act for itself.  Every computer is given a program, a set of instructions that tell it, step by step, how to perform a certain task.  If the job changes, the computer is reprogrammed for the new job.  The computer's performance is no better than the instructions it gets, and the information supplied to it.

However, this lecture isn't about computers.  It's about you and me.  It's about man.  It’s about Christian Science that reveals God's mandate to live.  Christian Science refutes the common belief that man's an organism programmed to die.  Man really isn't a physical organism headed inevitably toward his own destruction.  In the spiritual creation of man we find he's the immortal image and likeness of God, complete and good, and his purpose is to live.  This picture stands in sharp contrast to the one presented in the second chapter of Genesis.  There we find the record of a material man programmed to get into trouble and self-destruct.

This contrasting account deals with the Adam man brought forth from the dust of the ground.  His self-destruction was scheduled by what might be called the world's first and most unqualified programmer — the talking serpent of the Garden of Eden.  Just look at his program!  "Eat the apple!  Get to know evil!  Be a god!  Do it your way."  According to this ancient story, humanity became programmed to die because Adam and Eve failed to reject temptation.

Today's physical scientists have long since left Adam behind and are now concerned with what we might call "atom-man."  But the "Adam" and "atom" views of man have something in common.  Both present him as having a material, even a chemical nature. Adam's crude chemistry was "dust to dust."  This account of human origins was more concerned with rib division than cell division.  In fact, according to a recent cartoon caption, "The creation of Eve was the first split Adam!"

Today's biological theory says life is made up of electrochemical impulses, and that its formation is determined by DNA, the basic acid that's supposed to blueprint the substance of life.  Yet the impulses and chemistry of this atom-man are every bit as material as the makeup of Adam.  To some it seems just common sense to think of man in the material way, doesn't it?

 

Spirit Is Life's True Basis

But we need to reason in a different manner if we want to understand that life is man's purpose — if we want to exchange disease and death for health and glorious living.  When Mrs. Eddy instantaneously healed the shoemaker, we might say she changed the false mental programming he'd accepted since boyhood.  His body had been responding to expectations of death just as a computer responds to its programming.  It took someone strongly aware of life's true spiritual nature to change his condition from dying to active living.

Because Christian Science views man from the standpoint that he is God's reflection, God's spiritual image and likeness, this view brings the Christian Scientist to an entirely different conclusion regarding the nature of life.  The universe, including man, is perceived from a purely spiritual basis, and God is known as the only creator, the primal cause of all life — its very Principle.  Christian Science uses the word "Principle" as a name for God because it expresses the thought of cause and creator so precisely.

The substance of life, based on God, must be spiritual, because the Bible declares that God is Spirit.  Then man in God's likeness must be made of spiritual substance, and the source of this substance is the divine Principle that made it.  Man's "chemistry" is spiritual, too.  One can't alter Spirit's chemistry, nor destroy its substance, because Spirit is indestructible.  This makes man's true substance indestructible.

From this spiritual base Christian Science concludes that man is coexistent with his creator, and always has been.  Jesus pointed to his own spiritual, external existence when he said, "O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was." 3

 

Healing the Effects of Spider Bites

Jesus' knowledge that life is man's purpose enabled him to heal and to save the people of his day.  What he did is fully explained by Mrs. Eddy in the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.  The spiritually minded reader of this book can prove for himself the divine healing power Jesus practiced.

Conditions that could interfere with our life, or even threaten to destroy it, are being healed by spiritual means alone.  A friend and I proved this when she was bitten on the leg six times by a brown recluse spider.  The brown recluse is one of two poisonous spiders in the United States.  Where I live there had been a number of these spider bites that summer, and many of the victims were hospitalized because there is no known medical treatment and the bite can be fatal.

The third day after the incident my friend called me in great pain.  She was very ill and asked me to pray for her.  Together we reached out for the spiritual view of man that Mrs. Eddy discovered.  We prayed by declaring that man's life is in God and can't be destroyed or interfered with in any manner.  We saw that man wasn't programmed to die, but divinely created to live.

Then we remembered that there was more about true creation in the first chapter of the Bible than just the formation of man.  God saw everything He had made and pronounced it good, even the creeping things of the earth.  If God were responsible for His creation, then we had to ask each other, "Who put the poison in the spider?"  To us, the answer was obvious.  In a very profound and fundamental sense, it was a false view of creation, a belief that it was based in matter, that seemed to make man and the spider harmful to each other.  Mrs. Eddy refutes this materialistic view when she writes, "All of God's creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible." 4

We became convinced of the spiritual nature of both man and spider, because even a spider has a useful purpose and that makes it one of God's creatures.  It became impossible to believe one could interfere with the other.  Belief in the chemistry of matter was claiming that, because man is material, his substance could be altered, made sick, left with deep wounds as these spider bites leave, or even destroyed.  Our prayer brought an increased awareness that God is Spirit and life is man's purpose.

The composition, structure, and property of Spirit — Spirit's chemistry — is unalterable and indestructible.  No poison can touch Spirit's substance, and man is inseparable from Spirit.  By the next morning the terrible pain was gone.  We continued praying, that is, continued acknowledging the spiritual nature of her real being, and firmly denying any reality to poisoning.  My friend soon recovered completely from the wounds.

 

The Christ-Power Does the Healing

What was it that healed her?  It was the same Christ, Truth, that enabled Mrs. Eddy to restore the dying shoemaker to perfect health over a century ago.  It was the same Christ-power that enabled Jesus to heal almost 2,000 years ago.  When Christian Science uses the word "Christ," it implies much more than the human Jesus.  In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy explains "Christ" as "The divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error." 5

The man Jesus proved the power of the Christ to a greater extent than any other human being, and so he was called "Christ Jesus."  He showed us that everyone can avail himself of the same Christ-power in proportion to his spiritual understanding.  The Christ reveals the Science of man's relationship to God, and this Science refutes the false view that man is programmed for sin and death.

The Christ is here for everyone.  It is God's love and God's light shining for all mankind.  It's this light of the Christ that dawns on us when we begin to understand God's creation.  Through this light of Christ we begin to see that man is spiritual, and to understand his divine reason for existence.  Now that we've explored the fact that life is man's purpose, let's consider the second point, that life is law governed.

There's a divine law of life operating to bring man spiritual freedom and joyous living. This law refutes forever the lie that man is a material organism programmed by a genetic code to live or die.

 

LIFE IS LAW-GOVERNED

Jesus Overruled Laws of Matter

As the Christ, Truth, healed my friend, she learned what an understanding of life's spiritual source can do.  It can set aside matter's destructive forces or laws.  Jesus proved the superiority of spiritual power in the situations he faced — from storms at sea to healings of insanity and so-called incurable diseases.  He aborted matter's laws of suffering and danger and taught his followers to do the same.

Jesus pointed us to the divine law governing man's life, a life free from limitations.  His work should have ended for all time the illusion that matter is the source and condition of life.  But misunderstanding of his message and a general lack of spirituality in those who saw his work caused his life to be misinterpreted for centuries.  His followers became lost in the Adam-concept of man.

Neither Jesus' life nor his works can be understood from a material basis.  The mistaken view of matter as the source of life could be compared to Ptolemy's blunder in astronomy.  Ptolemy was a second-century Greek astronomer who tried to systematize the movements of the planets.  According to his theory, the earth was the fixed center of the universe, and everything revolved around it.

As a theory, it looked good.  But it was a mistake.  However, both the church and the government authorities of his day endorsed it, and the inconsistencies that later showed up were distorted to fit the mistake.  After all, we live on the earth and doesn't it seem obvious that the earth is fixed?

It wasn't until the sixteenth century that Copernicus correctly reversed the theory of the earth's fixity.  His discovery was considered such a serious affront to church authority that he was restrained from openly declaring it.

But a progressive idea can't be suppressed forever, and the Copernican discovery ultimately prevailed in spite of fiercely dogmatic opposition.

 

Love Is the Law of Being

The truth that divine Principle, Spirit, is the source of life was the basis of Jesus' work. But after his ascension, this truth couldn't be forever lost or hidden by ignorance or distorted by false theology.  It had to appear again, and it did through Mrs. Eddy's discovery.

After the moment of her own healing, when spiritual revelation came to her, Mrs. Eddy spared no effort to understand what she'd found.  She searched the Scriptures and devoted herself to healing others.  She found in the Bible an inherent message that had been obscured for centuries.

She then wrote the book I spoke of earlier that illuminates this sacred message for all mankind.  This book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, explains the law of Life that is God's creative plan for man.  It gives a clear explanation of Jesus' mission and shows how he healed the sick.

Jesus summed up the demands of the divine law of Life in two simple directives: Love God, and love your fellowman as yourself.  It was Jesus' love for God that enabled him to love man.  It was his understanding that God loved him as a beloved son that kept Jesus pure and free from the sins of the world.

Mrs. Eddy relates life to love over and over again in her writings.  In one of her poems she uses the arresting phrase, "Love alone is Life." 6  Life and Love are inseparable synonyms for God.

When we wake up to the divine law governing our life, we'll understand that the very law of Life is the law of Love, too.  Now this law of Love disciplines our thinking.  In fact, it's the manner in which we love that determines the manner in which we live.

Because the body responds to thought in the same manner the inanimate computer responds to its programming, it's well to see what kind of thoughts the body is being programmed with.  Destructive thinking has destructive results.  The poor body seems to have no choice when thus programmed but to respond in a sick and sinful manner.  But when our thinking responds to Love, our body responds with health.

One of the greatest facts about Love is the fact that God really loves man.  This love of God for man is the true current of life, and one who understands it can challenge the theory that life's made up of negative and positive charges of electricity generated chemically in the body.

Man is governed by divine impulses that stem solely from divine Love.  Man can't help loving because spiritual love is the very demand of Life itself.  Love impels strict discipline of thought.  To truly love is the greatest of all disciplines.  One who learns to let divine Love control his thinking finds he also organizes his life in a more loving  and  acceptable manner.  To love everyone under every circumstance with spiritual understanding produces a life that isn't subject to destructive disorganization.

The great question is "How do you love everyone under every circumstance?"  If you'll daily acknowledge that man is divinely impelled to love, you'll find the power and force of Love ruling out the hates and fears that disorganize your living.  So as the law of Love disciplines our thinking, it sustains our life.

 

Love's Law Sustains Life

The law of divine Love is the power and energy of Life and is the true force of spiritual creation.  The so-called material forces of the universe, parading as material law, counterfeit the spiritual power of Love and Life.  The energies of Love sustain and vitalize man's life.  In Love there's always sufficient energy to maintain life when it's spiritually viewed.

The power of divine Love is the true attraction of the universe.  It acts as a cohesive force that intelligently brings together all that belongs together.  The adhesive and cohesive power of Life holds together what Love has united.  The converse of this law of adhesion, cohesion, and attraction, just as surely separates from man that which does not belong to him — like sin and disease.

A Christian Scientist I know was able to use this spiritual law of adhesion, cohesion, and attraction to heal a large growth on her chest.  The condition was alarming and extremely painful at times.  Because the Bible declares that "The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.  .." 7 she felt she could safely rely on this sword of Spirit instead of turning to a surgical knife to remove the growth.

After much prayerful thinking by the Christian Scientist, coupled with daily treatment by a Christian Science practitioner, the body responded to the divine law being declared about her instead of responding to the material programming that had caused the growth. That which threatened life was separated from her because the diseased condition didn't stem from God who is man's life.  The lump had no cohesive power to support or maintain it.  When it drained and disappeared, soft new skin had already formed.  The healing was complete.

 

LIFE IS FOREVER UNOPPOSED

We Can Master False Views of God and Man

This healing is a prime example of the fact that life is man's purpose and it is law governed, the two main points we've been talking about.  Now I want to make a third point — that life is forever unopposed.  That which seems to oppose life is nothing more than false views of God and man.  These false views would program people to be sick, to be hurt, and to die.  But Christian Science reveals God's mandate to live.

Although many people might concede there may be a God in heaven, they're firmly convinced mankind's in hell.  Christian Science teaches that the only hell there is, is a state of consciousness that feels shut off from God.  This state of thought includes unacceptable modes of thinking and living that make life a hell on earth.  Let's look at some of these unacceptable ways of thinking that say there's not only opposition to our life, but opposition to our ability to live it happily and productively.

Discouragement is high on the list of unacceptable modes of thinking.  If you're discouraged, life is heavy, and you feel bowed down with burdens of false responsibility. But God, not man, is responsible for creation.  And God isn't a long way off.  Don't visualize yourself as down here somewhere, and God up there apart from you.  To look up to God might imply a separation.  But since man is spiritual, inseparable from God, through prayer he can learn to look out from Love and get the real view.

If God is Love, and man looks out from the very heart of Love, he can only see and be seen as Love's expression.  If man looks out from the very center of Life, he views only the spiritual realities of being.

As we practice looking out from God, we soon gain a higher view of man as His likeness.  Discouragement is healed when we no longer think we're separated from our Maker and no longer believe there's opposition to spiritual life.

Depression is another mode of thinking excessively present in today's world. Depression sometimes can stem from self-hate.  But whatever its cause, it's certainly an opposition to living we can correct.  Individuals find it hard to live with a self they don't approve of.  They try various methods of escape — alcohol, drug abuse, and sometimes even suicide.

It's easy to see the escape urge in these oppositions to life.  But there's an even more subtle kind of escapism — illness.  I used to suffer from a chronic illness myself.  It took a lot of maturity of thought to finally face up to the fact that sometimes it was a method of running away from unpleasant demands in my life.  After all, who can demand something of a sick person?

I was healed by Christian Science when I finally understood I had to face up to the false material selfhood imbued with its self-will and self-hate and see my true self in the likeness of my Maker.  The foe wasn't the illness.  It was the mistaken view of myself.

Then, when unpleasant conditions arose, I learned to face them and not run away. Gradually, the self-will yielded to God's will, and a desire to serve Him became the prime motive in my life. This improved way of thinking naturally brought an improved sense of health and unopposed living.

Now these things we've been talking about — discouragement and depression — are merely false programming arising from the belief that laws of psychology govern life. Think how psychology has programmed us to believe such things as "the terrible two's," or the "rebellious teens."  Children responding to these projected views of their age level in life can be healed in Christian Science.

In reality God created the children, and He saw His creation good, as the Bible tells us. God is Mind, the intelligent source of all action.  Mind's idea, man, responds to this governing power because it's the power of Life.  A two year old, seen as Mind's idea, must reflect Mind's control.  So must all children, regardless of what age they are.

To declare daily that man's not under the false laws of psychological behavior is as important as seeing that man is not under physiological laws programming him to be sick and to die.

False programming of mortals by the carnal mind affects every aspect of their lives.  A person's business could be programmed to fail because of laws governing the political or financial state of his occupation.  But Christian Science stops this false programming, too.  It teaches the businessman or woman to turn to God for the source of ideas to enhance and regulate his business. God didn't program a business failure.  His plan for man is dominion and fruition.

A person's business responds to his thinking as surely as his body does.  Therefore, one should declare the substance of his business and his body to be spiritual because man reflects Spirit, God.  A reflection can't be in a different state from its original.  If God's abundance is a spiritual fact, then man's abundance, through reflection, is just as much a fact.  But this isn't an abundance of matter.  It's the abundance of right ideas, flowing directly from the divine Mind that gives man daily supply.

False material programming has no power over spiritual man because his life is forever unopposed.  Knowing this we can fearlessly face any lie about man and his life, and then "dump the garbage."  That's a computer term for getting rid of the false input, the unwanted information.  Fear isn't included in God's plan for man.  It's an iceberg in human experience.  Like its counterpart, the iceberg of the ocean, it lies mostly submerged.  Just as the ocean iceberg dissolves in warm waters, so the icebergs of fear dissolve in the warm ocean of love.  Love's an instant solvent.

 

Fear of Death Overcome by Trust in Life

The ocean of spiritual love can melt away even the fear of death itself.  Death is the ultimate hoax of the belief of Life in matter.  It holds no terror for us.  Jesus proved by his resurrection, and Christian Science affirms that we live beyond this mortal experience.

Then what happens after death?  Mrs. Eddy says, "In the illusion of death, mortals wake to the knowledge of two facts: (1) that they are not dead; (2) that they have but passed the portals of a new belief." 8  She also says, "The sin and error which possess us at the instant of death do not cease at that moment, but endure until the death of these errors.  To be wholly spiritual, man must be sinless, and he becomes thus only when he reaches perfection." 9

So we see that even after death there's still a probationary period where we continue to overcome the wrong thinking that would make us feel separated from God.

Thinking can't be separated from experience.  How important then to resurrect our thinking from the stagnation of death programming.  How do we go about doing this? One of the ways we do it is by shutting out all unloving thoughts and actions.  We do it by loving in spite of conditions that tempt us not to love.  We do it by understanding the law of Love that's the law of Life, and we do it by knowing that God loves us.  This knowing is the greatest knowledge anyone can have.  The Bible tells us that "perfect love casteth out fear." 10  And where else but in God can one find the perfect love it takes to cast out this enemy of mankind?

 Casting out sin, as well as fear, helps defeat death.  Every sin we conquer in ourself is a part of our own resurrection — our new birth.  Mrs. Eddy says, "It begins with moments, and goes on with years." 11  How wise we are to enlarge these moments of our lives as we work diligently to cast out all sin and fear.

 

Life Is Developing Forever

Now if life is forever, where is it going?  We're on a spiritual trip.  It has no timetable because it deals with eternity.  It's a journey that forever develops man's awareness of his own spiritual nature.  To travel fast on this journey, we must travel light — without heavy mental baggage.  The experienced traveler is often known by the luggage he doesn't carry.

The total spiritualization of our own thought is our goal, but it's not our stopping point. Spiritual life develops forever.  It begins with a glimpse of existence as spiritual, and this glimpse starts to transform our human experience.  As our spiritual vision widens, so does our spiritual living.

The eternal life Jesus spoke of is spiritual life, without beginning, and continuing into eternity.  When Jesus ascended out of materiality, he did so from the height of his human experience.  His body wasn't decayed, diseased, or decrepit.  His pure thought had no error in it to produce these conditions.  How near we are to this state of being isn't so important as the fact that we exert every effort to attain it.

It includes God's mandate to live.  It includes life that is man's purpose, life that is law-governed, life that is forever unopposed.

And when the fullness of this life comes, as Mrs. Eddy says, "The encumbering mortal molecules, called man, vanish as a dream; but man born of the great Forever, lives on, God-crowned and blest." 12

 

1.   See Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966) p. 256; also Science and Health, pp 192, 193.

2.   Genesis 1:27, 28.

3.   John 17:5.

4.   Science and Health, p. 514.

5.   Ibid., p. 583.

6.   Miscellaneous Writings, p. 388.

7.   Hebrews 4:12.

8    Science and Health, p. 251.

9.   Ibid., p. 290.

10. 1 John 4:18.

11. Miscellaneous Writings, p. 15.

12. Ibid. p. 205

 

[1979.]

 

 

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