ONCE two of Jesus' students wanted to retaliate against some people who rejected him. James and John were ready to spring into action, defend their Teacher, and command that fire destroy the group. He reminded them that he had come to save lives, not destroy them. ``Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of,''1 he said. Do we know what ``manner of spirit'' we are of?
These days many people believe that the only way a person can survive inthe world is to be aggressive and selfassertive. A forceful, ``take charge'' approach tends to be the approved way of doing things.
Jesus showed us a better way. The Master's teachings were bold, and so was he. When he healed disease or exposed hypocrisy, he acted decisively and with authority. He had unlimited spiritual power to heal; he even raised the dead. Yet the remarkable thing was that with all this might, Christ Jesus was gentle. He never forced himself or his teachings on others; he never harmed anyone.
Christly gentleness is something far different from a quaint human attribute that makes an individual nice but ineffectual. Because it mirrors the very heart of God, omnipotent Love, it is strong, not weak. And life has ways of teaching us that this quality is one of those quiet, mighty things we really don't want to underrate after all.
For example, have you ever noticed how much we appreciate being treated gently by others if we're suffering? Suddenly what we may have regarded as small and insignificant means everything. Often such experiences have a subduing effect on us, and we become more gentle and compassionate ourselves.
Naturally, everyone wants to feel a certain degree of control over their lives. No one likes to be taken advantage of, to be abused or manipulated. But if we try to resolve a situation simply through physical or even mental aggression, we may well harm, rather than help, ourselves and others.
Aggressive, domineering tendencies are not natural to us. Jesus' life and healing works show that man is, in reality, divine Love's spiritual likeness, the very expression of Love in its goodness and completeness. We have no need, then, of animality to establish our place in the world, because in truth we belong to God; we are under Love's benign and just control, inseparable from infinite good.
Aggression -- mental or physical -- is characteristic of what St. Paul called ``the carnal mind,''2 of thinking that manifests hatred of God and God's idea. It's a self-destructive state of thought. So when we take a self-determined, aggressive approach to life, we're really opposing ourselves. We're opposing what we are in truth because we're identifying with a material view of man, with that which would deny and destroy our innate spiritual innocence, love, and sense of dependence on God.
Several years ago I decided to assume a stronger, more self-assertive manner. After a while, though, several problems developed. I knew something was wrong with my supposedly ``progressive'' plan, because this way of thinking made me feel very far from God.
During this time I didn't do anything criminal or abusive. But by consciously asserting the belief that I had a personal mind and will apart from the one divine Mind, I was denying God and my relationship to Him. I was setting myself up as a little god!
Through God's help my thinking and life changed. I learned to appreciate the grace of gentleness, and discovered peace of mind and satisfaction in expressing this healing quality of God. Interestingly, I was able to accomplish more, have greater trust in God's control of events, and be more helpful to others.
And speaking of helping others, Christly gentleness, when coupled with an understanding of man's spiritual being in God, is an irresistible healing force in human lives. It isn't the force of personality that brings about genuine Christian healing. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says, ``That individual is the best healer who asserts himself the least, and thus becomes a transparency for the divine Mind, who is the only physician; the divine Mind is the scientific healer.''3
There's no telling how much we can help each other and the world as we more fully value and shelter within ourselves the gentle, mighty spirit of Christ.
1Luke 9:55. 2Romans 8:7. 3Miscellaneous Writings, p. 59.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: The servent of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men. II Timothy 2:24