One of the subtle besetting sins of mortal mind, so called, is self-righteousness, complacent satisfaction with one's self and consequent dissatisfaction with or criticism of one's neighbor. That criticism is more frequently destructive than constructive is soon evident to even the beginner in Christian Science.
Christ Jesus, the Way-shower, has left along the path that winds upward and Spiritward many way-marks for the advancing Christian Scientist, not the least of which were his rebukes to self-righteousness, as in his conversation with Simon the Pharisee. The gentle, loving, compassionate Jesus made his way among the unbelievers that almost constantly surrounded him—many of them expressing ignorance, incredulity, ridicule, and hate—with a patient, long-suffering charity that never lost its healing influence. Smitten again and again by the hardness of heart, the bitter scorn and self-righteousness of the Pharisees, he repeatedly and unwaveringly pointed out to them the true way, the only way of salvation—that of compassion, forgiveness, love.
Simon, apparently, was not unlike his class; and he may have sought the Master for the purpose of basking in reflected glory, thus acquiring a new eminence in the eyes of his townsmen, just as many to-day seek the great and the wise, not to learn of them, but to exploit their greatness. While Simon apparently did not come seeking the truth, it was inevitable that he should hear it in full measure from the lips of the Master.
The Pharisees placed human wisdom ahead of spiritual understanding. Their unbelief caused them to turn aside from their great opportunities to know God, and often made Jesus sorrowful as he reasoned with them, lovingly seeking to awaken them from their indifference and self-satisfaction. Did they listen to him and heed his loving words and efforts? Not always! Having seen the apparent inability of the Pharisees to behold the true man, the son of God, Jesus recognized in their condemnation of him the unjust criticism, the unrighteous judgment, such as he rebuked in Simon's unspoken condemnation of the "strange woman" who interrupted his entertainment. Because Jesus saw so clearly the working of so-called mortal mind and its eventual annihilation through the activity of the truth, he summed up in one phrase the certainty of divine justice: "But wisdom is justified of all her children."
Simon's guests entered his house and sat down to meat. The meal was interrupted by the entrance of a woman of the city, a "strange woman," commonly spoken of among the Pharisees as a sinner. The thought of Simon is thus recorded in Luke: "He spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner."
So did the weight of Simon's unspoken thought, the judgment of a Pharisee, fall upon the case of this woman. There had been no spoken word; yet Jesus, reading the thought of Simon, and ever replacing the false with the true, began to answer it, saying, "Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee," and then followed the familiar parable.
There was nothing personal in Jesus' parable of the two debtors to one creditor. It was a type of parable the Pharisees could understand, for they had been trained over a long period of years to give high regard to the Jewish laws as they pertained to debtor and creditor. Its wording was the essence of tact, and yet its rebuke was mighty. Having shown that when the debtors had nothing to pay they were frankly forgiven by their common creditor, Jesus turned to Simon with the question as to which debtor would love the creditor most. Strange and new to Simon must have been this idea of love connected with the canceling of debt! He answered, "I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most."
Simon had long believed in penalty as going hand in hand with the inability to meet indebtedness. This was the new idea of love, as exemplified in forgiveness of debt, which Jesus, patient, encouraging, as though he were leading a little child instead of a rich and successful man of affairs, helped Simon to see. The true meaning of love was shown as expressed in the cancellation of sin, the wiping out of wrongdoing. "Seest thou this woman?" he said to Simon; not the woman of Simon's condemnation, but one who was expressing meekness, homage, affection, repentance, courtesy, the desire to serve, yes, one who was reaching upward after higher, more spiritual things. That was what brought her into Jesus' presence—her desire for good.
"In the absence of other proofs," Mrs. Eddy writes on pages 363 and 364 of "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "was her grief sufficient evidence to warrant the expectation of her repentance, reformation, and growth in wisdom? Certainly there was encouragement in the mere fact that she was showing her affection for a man of undoubted goodness and purity, who has since been rightfully regarded as the best man that ever trod this planet." One line stands out as a beacon light in the Master's voicing of God's laws: "When they had nothing to pay." How does condemnation, weighing down the sin-sick heart, longing for better things, flee before this truth; for with God there is, to the truly repentant, no debt, no law of penalty! God's own idea, reflecting and expressing Him, has never sinned; there is no debt to divine Love, nothing to be paid. Material sense, a false belief of life and intelligence as existent in matter, is the only sin and the only sinner. When this belief is relinquished, good alone remains. On page 503 of Science and Health Mrs. Eddy says: "In the universe of Truth, matter is unknown. No supposition of error enters there. Divine Science, the Word of God, saith to the darkness upon the face of error, 'God is All-in-all,' and the light of ever-present Love illumines the universe." God's child cannot be held in bondage to the belief of sin, sickness, or lack.
We can "owe no man any thing, but to love one another." This is the new idea replacing the method that existed as a law for the Pharisee. And what is it to love but to see God's idea expressed everywhere; to see the real man—perfect, upright, free? Not until this recognition comes is it possible to be really free, to acknowledge and accept the freedom which is our birthright, which has been our birthright legitimately all along, and which will be ours continuously throughout eternity. We do not condemn a little child for his mistakes in addition or subtraction when he is but beginning to master his problems in mathematics. We are all little children, taking our first steps in this new world of spiritual thinking and living. Our problems in the study of Christian Science, the Science of right thinking, are being worked out by God's provable law. Let us not condemn ourselves if we sometimes make mistakes. Let us, rather, correct them and learn through them, just as we would learn the application of the law of numbers.
We need to weed all thoughts that are unlike God out of our own consciousness, watchfully protecting our new and sometimes frail plant of spiritual thinking from the cold winds of criticism, condemnation, and selfrighteousness. We cannot afford to judge according to the Pharisee's standards: we must judge according to God's law of compassion, love, and release. On page 365 of Science and Health Mrs. Eddy says, "If the Scientist has enough Christly affection to win his own pardon, and such commendation as the Magdalen gained from Jesus, then he is Christian enough to practise scientifically and deal with his patients compassionately; and the result will correspond with the spiritual intent." Who is most often our patient to be dealt with compassionately? Is it not we ourselves who need to be freed from the material sense of things, from mortal thinking, from wrong thinking? How do we go about healing ourselves or others? Do we think, as Simon did, You are a sinner; or do we see, as Jesus did, the perfect man, and say to the repentant one, "Thy sins are forgiven." Divine Love is the only healer. That is why love fulfills the law. It completes, or bears witness to, the fact that man is the image and likeness of God and is already free, whole!
How many of us can well afford to pause and with Simon listen to Jesus' words, "I have somewhat to say unto thee," and turn from unkind criticism to true compassion, to operative brotherly love, and actively practice Christly affection!
It is not the office of a friend to be sour, or at any time morose; but free, open, and ingenuous, candid, and humane, not denying to please, but ever refusing to abuse or corrupt.