Sin And Sinner

From the October 1890 issue of The Christian Science Journal by

How shall we meet sin, and what should be our attitude of thought toward the sinner? These are important questions; and success in the demonstration of Truth depends upon the way in which they are answered.

In the beginning it is hard to distinguish between the two. The sin and the individual seem to be inseparable; where we see one we see also the other. But spiritual growth and successful demonstration separate them, revealing the individual as an entity and the sin as a non-entity. We must distinguish between them, or we shall never be able to imitate the example of Jesus and give the necessary demonstration of Truth.

While Jesus at all times possessed the same aversion for sin, in his love for the individual he was no respecter of persons. To sense it seems otherwise; but, as his character has an abiding place in our thought and an expression in our lives, we shall see that the equilibrium of his thought was never lost. Unexplained by Science, it hardly seems possible that his words on different occasions and to different persons could proceed from the same source. To the woman taken in adultery he said: “Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.” Had he no condemnation for one who had committed adultery? It seemed not. Was there ever a higher degree of charity or a greater love manifested toward the wrong doer! On another occasion hear him repeatedly say: “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” Had he no mercy for them? Could he not have manifested toward them the same forgiving spirit of Love, and thus have saved them also from their sins? To personal sense it seems that his love for one was not equal to his love for the other; that for the one he had a curse, for the other a blessing.

Jesus was ever the expression of Infinite Love. In the one case as well as in the other, he expressed that Love which saves the individual but destroys the sin; the Love that separates the individual from the sin. “If Jesus rebuked sinners pointedly and unflinchingly it was because he was their friend.”*

In these two instances we find the answers to our questions. In the one case he dealt with sin, in the other he manifested his attitude toward the sinner; in both, he possessed the same love for the individual. Love prompted the words of rebuke as well as those of forgiveness, “For the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

Can we think Jesus’ love for those unrepenting scribes and Pharisees was less than it was for the repenting woman who was taken in adultery? If we cannot, then we must conclude that the same love was expressed on both occasions. Neither can we think Jesus loathed the sin of adultery in the woman less than he did the sin of hypocrisy in the scribes and Pharisees, and for that reason was more lenient. Jesus loathed sin as never man loathed it. To no other individual has sin ever assumed so large dimensions, for it was all uncovered to him,—the most secret thought as well as the greatest outward crime. And yet, while it was greatest to him, it was also least, because he saw it deprived of all intelligence and power.

He saw mortals asleep in the dream or error—enjoying its pleasures and suffering its pains—and that they must be awakened to the fact of its unreality. This was his mission and he did that which would best accomplish his purpose. In these cases he had to deal with two different mental conditions. Divine Love did not appear the same to the one that it did to the other. To the one it seemed to be an unrelenting foe, while to the other it was an outstretched hand ready to help.

The scribes and Pharisees were asleep in error, satisfied to remain as they were. Jesus loved them and would save them. He loved not the sin of hypocrisy, nor the dream of materiality; but he loved the individual. They did not know the terribleness of their condition. They did not realize how far they were away from truth. Jesus had for them something better, but they must see their need of it before they would accept it; hence he must first cause them to see they were in error. For this he said: “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” He showed them the errors they indulged and the terrible consequences that must inevitably follow. Then he adds: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” (Matt, xxiii. 33.) Were these the words of Love? Yes; and given in the spirit of Love that knows no hate. They were Truth’s denunciation of error. While Jesus possessed undying love for the sinner he was unrelenting toward sin. The purity of his thought made his rebuke all the more terrible; but, “The design of Love is to reform the sinner.”* As the drowning man suffers when being brought back to life, so the sinner suffers under Truth’s denunciation of error. The suffering of mortal thought, when rebuked by Love, serves to destroy the sin, but saves the individual; revealing him as the image and likeness of God.

How different seemed the manifestation of Love to the woman! No need of a rebuke there. She had been awakened to a keen sense of her condition, and desired to be saved from it. Jesus knew the desire of her heart, that she was willing and ready to receive the blessings of Truth; hence he said to her: “Neither do I condemn thee; go, and sin no more.” Did he manifest the same Love as when he spake to the scribes and Pharisees? He did; but it does not appear the same to mortal sense. We see in these two instances the greatness and grandeur of Jesus’ character. “Unrelenting, inexorable, and terrible toward sin; all tenderness, compassion, and mercy toward the sinner.”

Do we see even faintly the course we should pursue? Do we realize that we must be firm and unchanging in our mental attitude toward sin; and yet possess for the individual the love that covers a multitude of sins? Love covers a multitude of sins because it deprives sin of intelligence, power, reality, and buries it out of sight; thus bringing to light the individual who is worthy of love. We must seek to express the One Mind. If we express God, we shall be firm and unrelenting toward sin. We shall see it deprived of all intelligence, power, and reality; but if we compromise with error, our sense of Truth is darkened and the reign of error prolonged. If we stand firm in our conviction of the somethingness of Truth and the nothingness of error, we shall rise above error ourselves, and also dispel the darkness of another’s thought. We may see no immediate result of our labors, but the time of harvest will surely come. Few of the scribes and Pharisees repented during the earthly life of Jesus, but his labor was not lost. The purpose of his open and stern rebuke was twofold. He desired to arouse the scribes and Pharisees to a sense of their need that Truth might save them; also, by showing the awfulness of the sin of hypocrisy,—how it prevents mortals from entering the kingdom—he hoped to save the multitudes from falling into the same sin.

Let us not forget, however, that while Jesus rebuked error unflinchingly, he possessed undying love for the individual. Without this love his rebuke would have been the railing of one mortal mind against another. He was just as willing to say to the hypocrite as to the woman: “Neither do I condemn thee.” He had no condemnation for the individual; it was the sin he condemned; but, had he spoken thus, they would not have understood him. They would have interpreted him to mean that he did not condemn the sin they indulged. To their sense, the thoughts they indulged were real being; but not so to Jesus! He saw the individual whom he loved, as wholly separated from this sinning sense. Error and the man of God’s creation were not united in his thought. The distinction he made we also must make; and we must manifest the spirit of Christ in all our words and deeds. If we raise our voice against error, we must be sure it is not raised against the person. If we see error as it is, we shall also see man as he is. But if in uncovering error we associate it with personality, and have a feeling of evil toward the person, we have made something of it instead of seeing it as nothing. We must first get right ourselves, and then we may hope to correct another’s thought.

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