On Being Different
THE Sermon on the Mount tells us how to be different, really different! An important part of Jesus Christ's ministry, it's a remarkable code of conduct for his followers and that includes us. But different from what? From worldly-mindedness and from worldly ways. Jesus repeatedly -- and startlingly -- turned commonly accepted precepts on their ear. For example, he said: ``Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.''1
Again and again Jesus turned worldly values upside down. He advocated, for example that his listeners cultivate qualities of meekness, humility, and brotherly love; and he condemned pride, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy. He encouraged us to prize qualities that the worldly-minded hold in small esteem. The poor in spirit, mourners, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers, those persecuted for doing right, the Beatitudes2 assure us, will be blessed and will find the kingdom of heaven. These qualities, lived and practiced, bring rewards that can't be measured in material terms.
Jesus lived what he taught. He told us: ``Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.''3 And he showed us what it means to actually do this. When one of his disciples cut off the ear of a soldier who was arresting Jesus, Jesus healed the soldier. He also prayed for the forgiveness of the enemies who crucified him. And throughout his ministry he urged that his disciples overcome evil with good.
The world is beckoning us to conform to its material values and methods, but we can turn from wrongdoing and eschew the self-indulgence that arises from the misconception that we are mortals constantly in need of gratification. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, points out how we can make this different -- this spiritual -- way of thinking more apparent in our lives: ``The real man being linked by Science to his Maker, mortals need only turn from sin and lose sight of mortal selfhood to find Christ, the real man and his relation to God, and to recognize the divine sonship.''4
Our true Godlike nature, or Christliness, is revealed as we acknowledge our indestructible relationship to God, divine Love. Christ Jesus showed us the way to live in accord with God's will. He revealed the spiritual nature of God and man, practiced the law of Love, healed by spiritual means alone, and illustrated the blessings that flow from obedience to God.
My first serious encounter with the Bible was reading Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The words spoke to me with such power that I felt I was a different person as I put its precepts into practice -- as indeed I was! It changed my thought to a more spiritual view of God and my fellowman.
The changes haven't stopped, either. Through deeper study of the Bible and Science and Health, and living what I am learning, I have gradually overcome fear of appearing in public and have been able to play the piano and speak with confidence before others, things I had never been able to do before. I am experiencing some of the blessings and rewards promised by being different in the way Christ Jesus taught.
1Matthew 5:38, 39. 2See Matthew 5:3-12. 3Matthew 5:43, 44. 4Science and Health, p. 316.