One would have thought it was a panacea. If a person was ill or lonely or just a little depressed, someone took him hot soup - and it was usually chicken. That was what happened on TV, anyway, and sometimes what happened in real life as well. It became a joke in our family: Something wrong? Let's make the chicken soup.
We are all called upon at times for aid. But many of us yearn to do more than take someone in need the proverbial chicken soup. We want to go a step beyond offering a listening ear or sending a letter of condolence, helpful as these may be. And we can. Christ Jesus has shown us how.
There was no one more committed to meeting the needs of his fellowman than the master Christian. Yet he brought not merely physical and emotional comfort, but permanent healing. He cured the disturbed Gadarene; he healed a crippled man at the pool of Bethesda; he restored a prostitute to moral living.
Christian Science explains these healings as the natural result of Jesus' spiritually uplifted consciousness, of his clear perception of God's supremacy and of man's actual nature as God's offspring. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ''Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick.''n1
n1 Science and Health, pp. 476-477.
If we are to follow Jesus in ministering to the needs of our fellowman in a deeply Christian way, we too need to maintain a spiritually uplifted consciousness. This requires consecration to the truth of God and of man as His spiritual likeness. We also need to recognize as fraudulent, and to denounce, the view of man as a sick or sinful mortal. To the degree that we prayerfully discern the reality of man's being and disbelieve the claims of evil, we are able to heal scientifically, following Jesus' example.
Such prayer does not preclude outward expressions of kindness. Indeed, believing that it does may prevent one from healing spiritually. The Bible admonishes us: ''If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.''n2 Thus Christian Science teaches proper and loving care for oneself and others in times of need.
n2 James 2:15-17.
But there are pitfalls to avoid in helping others. For example, we may feel so sorry for someone that our thinking remains focused on the problem. True, we should be deeply compassionate. But Christlike compassion - as Jesus showed - impels one to seek and to find a healing solution through prayer. It could be said that, as we follow Christ Jesus' example, we become solution oriented, not problem oriented.
Another pitfall to avoid is getting so caught up in a sense of personally doing something kind for someone that we lose sight of God as the source of all good. God is the true giver. As we understand this and strive to glorify Him, we are able to do some lasting good for the one in need.
Turning to God, the one divine Mind, for guidance enables us to help others in ways we could not plan if we depended on a merely personal sense of resourcefulness. We may send a letter of condolence or offer a listening ear. But such actions, if God-inspired, take on profound new dimensions; they are fresh and uplifting both for ourselves and for those whom we wish to help.
So we can go beyond chicken soup. First of all, we need to pray to understand more clearly the truth of God and man. Then if, through prayer, we feel inspired to help someone in need, our efforts will be truly Christlike. And such Christian efforts heal. DAILY BIBLE VERSE My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8, 9