WHEN war began in the Persian Gulf area, a common hope was that the conflict would be brief, that whatever correction was necessary would be made, and that greater peace and stability might ensue in the Middle East. Indeed, this is still a common hope. Men and women everywhere don't want to see people suffer, either from military battles or from political and social injustice. But what can we do if conflict isn't concluded as quickly as any of us want? Do we resign ourselves to the cynicism that argues humanity is capable of great cruelty and eventually such cruel force must have its explosive effect? Do we simply feel inadequate to deal with what's happening and thus try to put it out of our thought as much as possible? Or is there another response, one that taps the deep spiritual understanding of man as more than mortal, more than a creature subject to uncontrolled conflict and victimized by events larger than an individual can cope with?
How we act upon such questions is important not only because there is a battle going on in the Middle East. Even without open warfare in that, or any, part of the world, there are plenty of battles needing resolution. And there are opportunities to live more fully even within the most outwardly sedate person's life.
To recognize that our lives hold within them the potential to understand God and to learn of our own true nature as His spiritual child is to realize that every individual is a pioneer with unlimited opportunity. In this light, sometimes I think of one or another of Christ Jesus' disciples. Take Peter, for example. Here was a young man following in his father's footsteps as a fisherman, probably waking up each morning with the day's catch in mind.
Imagine what it must have been like the day the Master came to him and his brother and said, ``Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.'' I don't imagine the full drama dawned on Peter that day as to what exactly he was entering into. How could he have understood that within his decision, which took him away from his familiar and relatively quiet life, lay the opportunity to follow Jesus into history? How could he have foreseen the great transformation that would take place in him when he took the step from fishing and mending nets to discovering how the sins and sicknesses of the world could be taken away?
Yet Peter made his decision because what he responded to was the spiritual power and light of Christ, divine Truth. Obviously he wouldn't know where this decision would lead, but we still know of him today because of the role he played in the birth of Christianity. And that's the real point. As we respond to the Christ, the spiritual idea of man as the offspring of God, our life is transformed. And this transformation effects change and brings healing to the world.
When the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, first glimpsed the potential for healing that lay in a spiritual understanding of man as God's, Spirit's, idea or reflection, it came after she'd been injured in an accident. She was living then in a small industrial town on the coast of Massachusetts, and her own recovery resulted from turning to an account of healing in the New Testament. Where that healing would lead wasn't then evident, but in those few verses she began to see the first dawning truths that related man's life wholly to God.
Mrs. Eddy's book Pulpit and Press reprints a Chicago newspaper story published many years after this first glimpse occurred. It described Mrs. Eddy's discovery of the divine Principle of Christian healing as ``a natural fulfilment of divine law -- a law as operative in the world to-day as it was nineteen hundred years ago.'' The newspaper went on to quote Mrs. Eddy as saying of her experience: ``I had learned that thought must be spiritualized in order to apprehend Spirit. It must become honest, unselfish, and pure, in order to have the least understanding of God in divine Science.... Our reliance upon material things must be transferred to a perception of and dependence on spiritual things.''
We can decide today -- in every decision we make, whether large or small -- to relate ourselves wholly to God, infinite good. We can take the side of deciding to develop greater honesty, to be more unselfish, to be pure in our affection for God and our fellowman. Then, even if our lives seem as common as did Peter's, we can trust that there lies within them the same developing opportunity to choose the spiritual-mindedness that has the capacity to heal, to regenerate, and to advance us in every right direction.
One of the things that Peter learned -- as well as the Discoverer of Christian Science -- is that man is far more than outward, human appearances suggest. Man is God's child, the spiritual image and likeness of infinite Life, Truth, and Love. We can look forward to where this will lead, and the world will feel the effect of our regenerated lives.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples,
If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross,
and follow me....
For the Son of man shall come
in the glory of his Father with his angels;
and then he shall reward every man
according to his works.
Matthew 16:24, 27