Beyond a handshake

DO you feel like you're always being forced to take a side? Divisive issues are wide ranging: accessibility of domestic firearms, environmental threats, church/state controversies, government-run lotteries, human rights. Certainly being a decisive, socially conscious citizen is important. And everyone has the responsibility to choose what he sincerely believes is morally right. Yet there's a deep need for reconciliation and mutual trust. And it's clear that in order to achieve these we need to go beyond a handshake, smile, or friendly pat on the back, as symbolically significant as these may be. Ultimately, sustained mutual trust and affection demand a perception of man's spiritual unity with God, his inseparability from God's embrace. Without that recognition, even commitment to a signed contract could prove tenuous.

This is not too transcendental a point to be of practical value. To see more and more clearly that God is Love itself and that everyone's real, God-created identity is the image of Love, is to recognize the only basis for true brotherhood.

Jacob's tender reunion with his brother Esau, long postponed by guilt and uncertainty, was finally consummated through soul-searching prayer, Scripturally depicted as wrestling with an angel. Paul's response to divine authority made possible his eventual acceptance into the Christian community he once persecuted. No physical embrace, no well-intentioned avowal, of itself can bring about such radical healing of estrangement.

This should prompt us to do our own soul-searching. On what does our faithin getting along with others rest -- a sunny disposition? Living in the same building? Verbal assurances? Such dependencies fall short of the deeper, heart-felt dimensions of human relations. Diplomacy, salesmanship, next-door neighborliness -- all one-to-one relationships -- are strengthened and purified when based on the rock-firm conviction that harmony among individuals lies in spiritual unity. This unity springs from a common understanding of man's divine Principle, his loving Father-Mother God, and from the perception that man, reflecting Principle, Love, is not truly a mortal in conflict with other mortals. He's not the servant of discord but the expression of Love. Personalities and opinions need not obstruct the attainment of that understanding. Its effect can be to reduce antagonism, resolve disagreement, and promote an atmosphere of conciliation and healing.

We're always free to make our own friends, of course. But we're not morally at liberty to deny another's spiritual selfhood, not even an opponent's or competitor's. Most of us have to deal at some time or other with those we don't readily get along with. It's particularly important, then, to acknowledge that everyone does have a relationship to God, a relationship we can identify with when seeking agreement amid dissenting views.

This was the central spiritual fact I prayed with when approaching a man who was sponsoring a bill that would curtail the rights of certain individuals. We had been at odds. But this time an increased faith in God's unifying love prompted friendly dialogue, which led to a reevaluation of the issue to the benefit of all.

When teaching us to love our enemies, Christ Jesus said, ``If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.''1 This is not to say we should try to justify bad traits or to avoid tense issues strictly on the assumption that they'll invite unpleasantness. We need to confront discord, bias, falsehood, sin -- any disunity between people or factions -- with the recognition that because they do not express the action of divine Principle, are not the product of Love, they are powerless to sever the bond of good among God's children. And we can strive to overcome that disunity through patience, prayer, and tolerance.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, asks, ``When will the whole human race have one God, -- an undivided affection that leaves the unreal material basis of things, for the spiritual foundation and superstructure that is real, right, and eternal?''2 A good question to ponder in a world beset by controversy but searching for agreement.

1Luke 6:32. 2Miscellaneous Writings,p. 341.

You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Psalms 133:1

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