Urban Fear and Divine Love
I LIVE near a large city with the usual urban problems. Sometimes these spill over into my town, and after a rash of such incidents, I began to feel afraid. Whenever I feel this way, I find that praying helps me figure out what to do. And as I prayed, I remembered what the Bible says about the relationship between fear and love: ``There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.''1
As I thought about this, I could see that by being fearful I certainly wasn't being loving toward the people in the city next door. I also saw that the love the Bible speaks of would not only drive out the fear I was feeling but would also help to change the circumstances that seemed to be making me fearful.
I've come to see in my life that just as the Bible says, God is Love. It is natural for us, as God's spiritual children, to express His qualities, including love. We do this not just by loving family members and friends but also by having a loving outlook toward our fellow men and women whoever they are. This enables us to respect their humanity while also seeing them in more spiritual terms.
To think of ourselves as children of Love, of God, helps to free us from destructive feelings. Hatred of another race, for instance, really isn't appropriate to someone who is trying to live as the child of Love. On the other hand, developing a clear sense of God's presence and of our unbreakable relationship to Him helps to eliminate the fear that can cause such hatred. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in Retrospection and Introspection: ``God is everywhere. `There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard;' and this voice is Truth that destroys error and Love that casts out fear.''2
Proving that God is with us wherever we are can often be a step-by-step process. I've occasionally had to go into areas of cities that were considered dangerous, sometimes at night and on foot. I have always been grateful for the prayer that has helped me to feel God's presence with me. Knowing that Love is with me has kept me from feeling I'm in a lonely struggle against the forces of darkness and has enabled me to travel confidently.
This does not mean that I behave foolishly, however. There are times when intuition and wisdom have led me to change my plans or to travel by a different route in order to avoid possible trouble. The motive behind the change in each case, however, has been to obey God's guidance; I have not made such a change in plans out of fear.
Another important aspect of the way love neutralizes fear relates to how we are thinking of our fellow citizens. At first my prayer about the increase of violence in my area had stopped with ``I am a child of Love.'' This wasn't going far enough, as I realized when I recalled Christ Jesus' admonition to love my neighbor as myself. Not more, but not less either.
Such love puts our relationship with our fellow citizens on a different basis. We are united by seeing that all of us are in truth members of one family, bound together in Love, God. And it is natural for us, as children of Love, to expect love, not hatred or fear, to be expressed -- both by us and toward us.
One thing that has been helpful to me in praying about crime is understanding that God, divine Principle, is the ultimate Law-giver and law-enforcer. There is no escape from ever-present Principle, but the lawfulness of this Principle is balanced by the fact that God is also Love. The presence of Love is brought to our lives through Christ, the true idea of God that Christ Jesus taught. There is no heart so hard that it is not receptive to Christ, Truth. And through our prayers to see the ever-presence of Christ, even in the darkest places of our cities, we can make a contribution toward mankind's progress.
It is useful, too, not to forget that love can help those seeking to turn from evildoing and lead them to the redemption and reformation that are necessary to overcoming sin. Loving even those who have done wrong does not, of course, mean that they should be excused for breaking the law. But it does mean that our prayers can be for the good in man to be expressed.
Here again, just spending time loving our fellowman in prayer can help. For instance, at one point I was living in a very large city that was being plagued by a serial killer. This situation went on for some time, and finally I was praying every night about the case. After I had spent many hours in prayer seeking to feel the presence of Love in this situation and to feel the love that God has for all His children, I found that I could love this man, whoever he was.
I certainly wasn't loving what he was doing. That I knew would have to stop. But I suddenly sensed that he felt compelled to do something that even he didn't actually want to do, that there was some mental impulsion that seemed beyond his control. As I prayed, I knew that Love governs all its children and is, in an ultimate sense, the only real force in our lives. Within a few days, the man was captured. Later events showed that he had felt he was being controlled by another being and that this was what had made him kill.
Love and fear are polar opposites; they can't possibly dwell together. And as we diligently cultivate an understanding of God as Love and of ourselves as His children, forever inseparable from Him, we will find that loving will come more readily to us. Fearful situations may appear in our lives, but the armor of love that we have built up through prayer will protect us.
1I John 4:18. 2Ret., p. 61.