Healing Under the Law and the Gospel
Horacio Omar Rivas, C.S.B., Miami, Florida
Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,
The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts
Christian Science lecturer Horacio Omar Rivas says he is convinced that "there is a divine law that brings the good tidings of salvation to the human race" and that this divine law has healing effects as one opens his thought to the compassionate nature of the gospel. Mr. Rivas gave his lecture, "Healing Under the Law and the Gospel," at The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, on Sunday, December 5, 1982. He also gave it in Spanish later that afternoon.
The lecturer lives in Miami, Florida, where he teaches Christian Science in English and Spanish. Mr. Rivas, an American citizen, was born and educated in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While still a college student, he began devoting himself to the healing ministry of Christian Science. He is a member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship and has lectured in several languages on five continents.
Mr. Rivas was introduced by Mrs. Sally Ades.
An abridged text of the lecture follows:
The iron doors were automatically slammed behind me. I was a Christian Science Field Worker on my first visit to a maximum-security prison. The job consisted of providing the inmates with help through prayer when they requested it.
I was given a tour of the penitentiary by one of the officers. The tour took me to every section of the jail and included detailed information about the crimes the inmates had committed.
Nobody, even the most insensitive individual, could have remained indifferent, hearing about so many atrocities. One was caught between fear and loathing of those who had shown so little respect for other people's rights and sentiments. After the tour I was supposed to read the Bible for those very individuals. How could I be of help with feelings of fear and resentment? I also began to have doubts about the possibility of accomplishing any good in the face of such subhuman tendencies.
Then I turned to God in prayer. It was a simple desire to be of help, to entertain the right idea of man. And my "Christian Science Hymnal" opened at random to Hymn No. 83. The title of that tune is "Innocents." I read, "God made all His creatures free;/Life itself is liberty."
On the one hand, the law had declared those individuals guilty. But on the other hand, Jesus proved through countless healings that everyone, in his true being, is innocent and perfect, the child of God. Jesus exemplified the compassionate nature of the Christ, the divine manifestation of God. It was his Christliness that enabled him to perceive man's innocence and to heal and regenerate human lives.
I decided to be obedient to what our Master taught in my attitude toward those men. It was as if an inner voice was telling me that I needed to be more compassionate, more loving, more spiritually generous, seeing all only as spiritual reflections of God.
Instead of accepting the traditional opinion that man is a mortal - born in sin and condemned to eternal suffering - I took sides with the eternal law of God, divine Love, a law that enables us to enjoy the good tidings of healing and regeneration according to Jesus' gospel. This marked the beginning of a very useful, healing activity within those walls, which I took part in for several years.
What was that inner voice, that intuition, that conviction, which led me to accept the innocence of man? Was that a divine influence? Is that divine influence in each one of us?
I'm convinced that it is, and that there's a divine law that brings the good tidings of salvation to the human race. Let's consider together the healing effect of the law of divine Love as we open our thoughts to the compassionate nature of the gospel.
I, too, was once a prisoner - not behind bars - but a prisoner of an enslaving habit. I used to be a chain smoker, and very attached to heavy drinking, also.
As a teen-ager I wanted to show the world I was very mature. That I had a mind of my own, and that I did everything the grown-ups did. Oh, it was so sophisticated to display a knowledge of cigarette brands and bottles of wine. As in the movies! But the alluring posture didn't last long. It soon became a regular habit, then a seeming necessity, and during my early 20s, an aggressive vice.
From a superficial point of view it seemed I was just following a personal inclination to smoke and drink. "What's wrong with that?" I would say defensively. "Many people do it." Now I can see that behind that habit was the world's general opinion that man lives only to satisfy the appetites of the flesh.
Then, in the early '60s, I was introduced to Christian Science, or the Science of Christ, discovered and founded by Mary Baker Eddy. After a few months of study I was healed of both habits.
The battle wasn't just an effort to become clean-cut. It was a challenge to the worldwide belief that man is a mortal with a private materialistic mind instead of the reflection of God, divine Mind. Being influenced by worldly trends was robbing me of my freedom. "What's freedom?" I would ask myself. I was gathering from my study of this Science that to be free is to be governed by the law of divine Love and not by any sensual urge.
Some of you may wonder how a healing of this nature takes place. It takes place as we open our thought to the fact that we are not, in reality, governed by impulses beyond our control. Man is not a hedonistic mortal whose only motivation for living is to satisfy carnal impulses. He is the immortal expression of God, Spirit, and our acknowledgment of this higher concept of man always leads to healing.
'No condemnation . . .'
Healing through spiritual means is the result of the law of God in operation, the law of divine Love, a law that supersedes any enslaving philosophy or human condemnation. We can all say with the Apostle Paul: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom. 8:1, 2). This clear sense of spiritual dominion frees us from any imposition of physical sense. This is the regeneration that Christian Science teaches and practices.
There's nothing more satisfying than finding one's freedom. We can certainly say that God created man innocent and free, in His image, spiritual, not material, as the first chapter of Genesis indicates.
"Innocent; free from guilt or sin" is a definition we find in Webster. This defines our real, spiritual identity.
Human beings acquire vices or bad habits because of different, unfortunate circumstances. But no matter how deeply entrenched we may seem to be in a pernicious habit, we can find freedom. As we accept our spiritual innocence and strive to live according to it, we won't be prisoners of unrestrained impulses anymore.
Freedom - be it physical or moral - comes when we realize that nobody needs to be attached to appetites and passions. Freedom comes when we feed a desire to obey the moral and spiritual law - that law given by Moses and demonstrated by Jesus in healing the sick and regenerating the sinner. This law is summarized in the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:3).
The so-called pleasures of the flesh would venerate matter and deny that man is the child of divine Spirit. Any form of idolatry brings suffering, because it breaks the first commandment.
Obedience to the first commandment promotes morality and healing. It promotes the understanding that law emanates from God - that is, from infinite Truth. The harmony of our being is established by divine law. Because divine Spirit is absolutely All, the only source of genuine law, nothing physical or sensual can be law.
Obedience to the first commandment means to put God, Spirit, first, to consider real and permanent the qualities that originate in Spirit - the purity, love, and goodness. This allegiance to Spirit establishes moral behavior, dominion over passions and false appetites. Spiritually based conduct doesn't vary with time or fashion. It remains unchanged through the ages and can be practiced in any society when individuals are willing to understand and prove that Spirit, not matter, governs man.
This kind of understanding brings liberation from any enslaving habit, be it smoking, drinking, or the use of drugs. And here we should clarify a point. Some people may entertain the notion that "Christian Science is that religion which doesn't believe in doctors." Well, I can honestly say that it doesn't promote or teach antagonism toward anybody or anything. No one is more qualified than the Leader of the Christian Science movement to correct any misconception on the subject. Mrs. Eddy says: "A genuine Christian Scientist loves Protestant and Catholic, D.D. and M.D., - loves all who love God, good; and he loves his enemies. It will be found that, instead of opposing, such an individual subserves the interests of both medical faculty and Christianity, and they thrive together, learning that Mind-power is good will towards men" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 4).
What it means to have one God
It's clear, then, that a genuine Christian Scientist isn't antagonistic toward the medical profession. But we should consider that Mrs. Eddy also says, "Religion and medicine must be dematerialized to present the right idea of Truth; then will this idea cast out error and heal the sick" ("The People's Idea of God," pp. 7,8).
Christian Science teaches us how to worship God "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24) - thus fulfilling the first commandment. Obedience to divine Spirit constitutes the most effective form of religion and medicine. It eliminates the need for drugs, for material methods, because it inculcates an absolute reliance on divine Spirit and Love, a reliance that brings healing. In other words, we don't take drugs because we find healing in understandingly worshiping God, Spirit, the opposite of matter.
Whatever seems to glorify the belief that matter has intelligence or substance is a mortal imposition, which can be eliminated by yielding to the first commandment. To have one God means to adhere to purity, to gain dominion over sensuality and freedom from enslaving habits. To have one God means to understand that man is created by Spirit and influenced only by divine Mind, by God.
Looking to our spiritual origin and yielding to the guidance of divine law, each one of us can discover his innocence, no matter how strong the attachment to materiality seems to be.
Christ Jesus, the master Christian, our Exemplar of obedience to the laws of God, admonished his followers, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).
Though our behavior sometimes seems far from the absolute demonstration of Jesus' command, every effort to be pure, every battle won over hate and discord, every moment of conscious discernment of our spiritual sonship with God, is a proof that it's possible to follow our Master's admonition.
Now, we won't progress by promoting an alluring personality. A material personality, good or bad, is not the image and likeness of God. Again, innocence and wholeness are found in the perception and expression of our spiritual individuality - our only true individuality.
A young Christian Scientist had a very unpleasant skin problem. Acne seemed common among people of her age, and she had accepted this false view as law, strongly endorsed by medical theories.
The first step was to turn away from observing the physical trouble and to see herself in all her purity and perfection as God's spiritual idea. She felt supported by her understanding that man's nature is guiltless. She became imbued with the idea of the universality of purity. She realized that purity of thought and action as a spiritual quality was bestowed by God, not only on her but on His whole creation.
In a very short time the acne disappeared, and there were no scars. This person told me recently that she wasn't specifically searching for physical healing - though she didn't like the skin problem. But she was divinely impelled to search for man's innocence and purity.
As you can see, healing in Christian Science is initiated as we perceive spiritual perfection, not only in ourselves but in all, seeing it as the real and only identity of man. This opens our thought to the power of God and the perfection of man. Then the Christ, God's healing idea, removes any sense of suffering, or punishment.
In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" Mrs. Eddy says, "In proportion to his purity is man perfect; and perfection is the order of celestial being which demonstrates Life in Christ, Life's spiritual ideal" (p. 337).
Everyone needs to be spiritually guided in order to conform to God's requirements and express man's legitimate innocence. And this guidance, as I've said before, is found in the Ten Commandments.
We've talked about the first commandment and our need to be always led by Spirit, God. How about the other commandments? It is possible to apply every commandment to every aspect of our life.
"Thou shall not steal" (Ex. 20:15), for example, directs us not only to refrain from taking other people's possessions and rights, but also not to rob ourselves of moral and spiritual rights conferred to us by God - to protect our innocence and purity.
Let's take the fifth commandment, "Honour thy father and thy mother" (Ex. 20:12). It's accepted as law that one's childhood environment determines his later mental and physical characteristics. But this belief causes needless suffering. I'm convinced it's more natural to get rid of impositions stemming from that belief by working for our own spiritual regeneration than to blame our parents for our present shortcomings.
Fulfilling the law "Honour thy father and thy mother" certainly includes being grateful for what most parents do for their children. We can be grateful for their dedication, tenderness, and protection, for their efforts to provide us with shelter and education to the best of their ability. Those who feel they aren't or weren't properly provided for by their parents may need to express deep compassion and forgiveness in order to obey this commandment. Such qualities emanate from divine Love.
Our forgiveness, compassion, or gratitude should be impelled by our understanding that God is good, therefore good is ever present, independent of human personalities. No matter what seems to have happened in the past, nobody, in reality, can be deprived of the shelter and care of our only real Father-Mother - God, infinite Love.
Obeying all the commandments of the divine law, we become genuine followers of that perfect model, Christ Jesus, the highest human manifestation of spiritual innocence and purity ever to walk the earth.
If the Ten Commandments constitute the essence of divine law, and obedience to this law reveals the innocence of man, why do we also need to turn to the teachings of Christ Jesus in order to enjoy spiritual healing and regeneration? Because violation of the law brings its own punishment. However, Jesus' teachings - to which Christian Science fully adheres - do not pursue the punishment of the individual, but his regeneration. This regeneration cancels suffering or penalty.
Part of Mrs. Eddy's definition of "Moses," in its spiritual meaning, in the Glossary of Science and Health, is, "A type of moral law and the demonstration thereof; the proof that, without the gospel, - the union of justice and affection, - there is something spiritually lacking, since justice demands penalties under the law" (p. 592).
You may remember that in working with the inmates at the penitentiary, it was only when I allowed the loving, compassionate nature of the gospel - which presents man as innocent - to govern my feelings about them that I was able to share the healing message of Christian Science and be of some help. The need wasn't to analyze personalities, materialistic behavior, and aberrations of conduct. The need was to exercise Christian compassion, accepting the basic, innate innocence of man as a starting point.
It's interesting to see signs of this compassionate Christianity in our society today. A new trend in prison reform is to seek to regenerate the individual through more loving, intelligent treatment.
Every time we are confronted by inharmony, by questionable behavior, we can resort to the law of divine Love. This law declares man the child of God. It's at the heart of Christ Jesus' message of salvation.
In healings related in the New Testament we find a loving look, tender affection, sweet patience, which impelled individuals to fulfill the Mosaic law. This, in turn, would open the door to freedom from the suffering imposed by disobedience.
Once the scribes and Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery. As unbending adherents of the Mosaic law, they believed they had the right to stone her. But could the gospel Christ Jesus was bringing from divine Love include the spilling of blood? Compassion and mercy lead the way to reform. So, first he dealt with the accusers, letting them know that no human being is in a position to condemn another. His historic words are still valid for us all: "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7).
What was the result? They all left the woman alone. There was no more self-justification for committing a crime, not even in the name of law. Then Jesus turned to the woman and told her that he didn't condemn her either. His final words to her were, "Go, and sin no more" (John 8:ll). The admonition was an emphatic, authoritative reminder of the need for obeying the Mosaic law, "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Ex. 20:14). Jesus' words may have implied: Show your purity to the world, your complete repentance and redemption, your firm resolution to be led by wisdom in gaining dominion over passions and temptations.
The compassionate nature of the gospel - the good tidings of salvation for the human race - was also expressed in this story in that the people were protected from becoming debtors to the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" (Ex. 20:13).
Here we have a case illustrating how important it is not to contemplate human personality but to discern the real individuality of man - the innocence of his real being. The gospel doesn't teach us to condone sin. However, because all of us in our real being are innocent, we all deserve the same compassion, a compassion that redeems, that enables us to cherish the law of divine Love.
This compassion of the Christ that Jesus expressed is what awakens in us a spiritual vocation, a supreme love for the divine law and the gospel. In the words of Mrs. Eddy:
"Christian Science demands both law and gospel, in order to demonstrate healing, and I have taught them both in its demonstration, and with signs following. They are a unit in restoring the equipoise of mind and body, and balancing man's account with his Maker. The sequence proves that strict adherence to one is inadequate to compensate for the absence of the other, since both constitute the divine law of healing" ("Miscellaneous Writings," p. 65).
Now the question comes: If obedience to the law found in the Old Testament and the compassionate nature of the gospel found in the New Testament is enough to produce healing and regeneration, why do we need Christian Science? Because Mrs. Eddy's discovery makes this coincidence of the law and the gospel practical and demonstrable today. Christian Science makes God's healing truth accessible to the human race in fulfillment of Jesus' promise, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16).
In discovering Christian Science Mrs. Eddy fulfilled the Master's promise. She also called her discovery "the Christ Science or divine laws of Life, Truth, and Love" (Science and Health, p. 107).
If we're seeking an understanding of this Science, of these divine laws of Truth and Love, we need to realize that Mrs. Eddy's discovery involved great personal sacrifice. Her role as Discoverer of Christian Science was marked not only by a deep love for God and man but by profound spirituality, which made her and the Science she discovered the prime target for the carnal mind's attacks.
She was a strict adherent of the Mosaic law - the Ten Commandments. But she also adhered to Jesus' teachings found in the Gospels. Her spiritual perception and practice of both law and gospel gave her a remarkable healing ability.
Very often Mrs. Eddy had to take a firm stand to protect her spiritual vision. But her determination, born of an understanding of Principle, God, was balanced by her deep compassion for all. She saw that man, in truth, is innocent, the child of God.
There are numerous instances in her life in which this love, this Christian compassion, was expressed in the healing of others. In "Twelve Years with Mary Baker Eddy," Irving C. Tomlinson tells us that once Mrs. Eddy was sitting alone when suddenly the door opened and "an escaped maniac dashed into the room." Mr. Tomlinson continues: "For a moment he met her quiet, fearless gaze with a wild glare, then he fiercely seized a chair to hurl at her head. She spoke to him compassionately and he dropped the chair, approached her, and pointing upward, exclaimed, 'Are you from there?' "
Mrs. Eddy was praying earnestly. After a short time the man said, "That terrible weight has gone off the top of my head." And, Mr. Tomlinson concludes: "When he left her he was in his right mind. Later this man made a special visit to Mrs. Eddy to thank her for his healing" (Tomlinson, pp. 49, 50).
This incident reminds me of our need to speak compassionately in obedience to the gospel of divine Love. Then we'll feel the presence of the Comforter and its healing effects.
The tenderness of the gospel makes the Comforter accessible to mankind. It brings hope to those who are longing for spiritual freedom. The Comforter brings a taste of heaven to our daily lives. As Mrs. Eddy says in one of her poems ("Poems, "p. 7):
And life most sweet, as heart to heart
Speaks kindly when we meet and part.
Though the healing of a moral issue and the healing of a physical problem in Christian Science are based on the operation of the same divine Principle in human consciousness, the primary error needing correction in each case may differ.
One who thinks there is satisfaction in becoming the slave of a passion or the instrument of vice needs repentance. He needs to repent for breaking the universal divine law, which demands that we worship no other God, no other Mind, no other Love, but infinite Spirit. "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 3:2), John the Baptist preached.
One who looks at the body to determine health needs to be healed of the belief that health is a quality of matter. And this is just a belief, not truth. Through the purification of our motives and desires we become beneficiaries of the divine law of health. The Bible admonishes us, "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body. and to be present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:8). Living in accord with this admonition preserves and restores health.
Obedience to the law and gospel requires understanding that suffering and illness are unnatural. Nothing physical can be law, because all true law stems from God, who is Spirit and All. Man is ruled by divine Mind, not by matter.
Disease not incurable
In following our Master, Christ Jesus, we're law-abiding citizens in social, political, economic, and civil matters, giving to Caesar what is Caesar's. We're also law-abiding in that we recognize that our entire being is governed by the law of eternal Love. This law enabled Jesus to heal blindness and cure the lame, contrary to what the material senses were reporting. This law of Love is still available to us for the enjoyment of spiritual healing.
Years ago a very dear member of my family came home from the doctor's office in a terrible state of depression. She was weeping because the doctor had diagnosed an incurable disease. His words to his patient were, "Madam, you've come too late."
This woman had earlier been given a copy of Science and Health and was determined to prove to the world and to herself what she had always believed: that God, divine Love, is the only authority, the only Judge, the only lawgiver. During three months she devoted her energies to annulling and rejecting that prediction of suffering and immediate extinction.
She regained first her confidence in the availability of the divine law of Love, then her joy. She expelled from her thought the pictures of suffering and disease, which she realized were not laws.
In three months she had a much clearer view of her spiritual identity, her innocence and purity, her unity with divine Love. The effect of her adherence to God's law was physical healing. Then she was able to help others, including me, to find healing and regeneration through obedience to the law and gospel.
As you can see, obedience to divine law - to the first commandment - brings justice, freedom, health, and redemption. Mrs. Eddy writes: "The divine Principle of the First Commandment bases the Science of being, by which man demonstrates health, holiness, and life eternal. One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars, fulfils the Scripture, 'Love they neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, - whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" (Science and Health, p. 340).
The divine law demands our obedience to Spirit, God - but it protects also. The gospel requires us to be Christlike - but the result is the destruction of suffering and punishment and the proof of our innocence as children of God. Metaphysical healing as taught in Christian Science is based on this law and on this gospel. It is available to you and to me and to all, right now.