How do we view the ''man in the street,'' our neighbor, or the stranger at our door? The way we do this can have a tremendous impact for good, not only on our own lives but on the lives of those we encounter - if it is based on the realization of man's true selfhood.
The first chapter of the Bible states that man was made in the image and likeness of God. This is a view of man as beloved and amply provided with all good by an all-loving Father. The second chapter, however, tells of man made of the dust of the ground, subject to hardship and misery.
Can such opposite views both be true?
Christ Jesus' words ''Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect'' n1 point clearly to the true concept, to the spiritual fact that man is the perfect image of his creator, a fact that we all, step by step, need to demonstrate. Although Jesus' condemnation of sin and hypocrisy was unrelenting, he loved man as God's image, and this tender love and compassion, this true view of God's creation, underlay his healings of disease and sin.
n1 Matthew 5:48.
What a tremendous impact his understanding and compassion had on the sick, the sinner, the poor, and even just the frankly curious. Countless lives must have been improved and characters transformed through contact with the Christ, the saving Truth he so fully embodied.
Jesus discerned man to be God's own likeness, possessing dominion, reflecting health, holiness, and perfect life; and this enabled him to perform wonderful healing work.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''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.'' n2
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 476-477.
We too have the choice of deciding how we will view our fellowman. If we endeavor to see him as Jesus did, we are following in the steps of the master Christian, and the results can be wonderful. No doubt we will encounter challenges, and not always succeed, but there will be heartwarming victories, and we may never know the good we do.
For instance, have you ever walked into a store to be met with indifference and sometimes rudeness on the part of an assistant; and have you ever tried a cheerful greeting, a gentle word of encouragement, and a loving smile, and watched the coldness melt like snow before the sunshine? We cannot know the burdens our fellowman may be carrying, perhaps of heartache and discouragement, and a sincerely loving response on our part can be just what is needed at the time. Here the accent must be on sincerity. Merely repeating words is not enough; we must truly feel the love we wish to manifest. As man is the offspring of God, perfect divine Love, it is natural that others express, and respond to, love.
How many of us enjoy being in the presence of one we know has a high opinion of us? Don't we bloom and blossom in that presence, and strive to be the man or woman we know that person sees us to be? Mankind responds naturally to love and kindness as the flowers respond to the warmth of the sun. A truly loving heart, and a helpful instead of condemnatory attitude toward our fellowman, will bring blessings to the world even as each individual with whom we come in contact is blessed. As a hymn puts it, ''To worship rightly is to love each other; each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.'' n3
n3 Christian Science Hymnal, No. 217.
So, it really is important how we view our fellowman. Instead of adding to his burdens we can uplift him by perceiving his actual perfection as God's own beloved son. DAILY BIBLE VERSE If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not ever man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Philippian 2:1-5