WHEN Natan Shcharansky was released after thirteen years in a Soviet labor camp, he refused to leave without the Psalms, which he said had been such a help to him. We're told also that the most widely circulated publication among troops during the Persian Gulf War was the Bible.
Clearly, the Scriptures give us spiritual light when we most need it. And they not only assure us of God's care; they enable us to prove it.
Worldly thinking sometimes contends that the Bible is of little help, that it's too complex or contradictory. The fact remains, though, that the Bible is a book of simple, powerful messages. One of those messages is that there is a God and that turning to Him for help is doing something very practical. Throughout the Old and New Testaments we read of people struggling against the currents of materialistic thinking--against the very elements that underlie the world's suffering--and winning through divi ne power. We can do the same today.
These days, when a lot is being done to address crime, drug addiction, the destructive effects of immorality, we need to go a step beyond wrestling with effects and identify the underlying causes in our efforts to change things for the better. The Bible helps us do this. In the most direct terms, it pinpoints the cause of human suffering as well as its remedy.
For instance, Christ Jesus taught, "No man can serve two masters . . . . Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Later, St. Paul wrote to the Romans, "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. What powerful guidance! How wonderfully simple but not simplistic! In essence, the message is to obey the First Commandment. Really to follow the Bible's guidance, to worship Spirit alone in thought and action, would diminish the sensualism, selfishness, dishonesty, false depende nce, and so forth that perpetuate suffering.
The Bible isn't a book of demands so much as a book of promises. It tells us we can find concrete healing through a better understanding of our creator. It shows us the road to salvation through the Ten Commandments, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and through the examples of those who proved the power of God to be a living reality, not abstract theory.
Transcending a fearful, superficial concept of Scriptural teachings is the message of God's unwavering love for man and of man's safety in the creator's care. The Bible isn't telling us we're hopeless sinners; it's telling us we're really "the children of God, His spiritual offspring. It's showing us that our true selfhood, created by God, is spiritual, and that this is why it's possible and natural for people to be spiritually-minded. This is why it's natural for us to love one another--because in tru th man is the outcome of divine Love itself. The Scriptures assure us that no matter what the challenge, our reliance on God and conformity to His law make God's protecting power apparent in everyday life. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Unity of Good, ". . . Be allied to the deific power, and all that is good will aid your journey, as the stars in their courses fought against Sisera. (Judges v. 20.)
Intelligent action begins with divine guidance. If we want to do something, there's no better starting point than the Bible.
This is a condensed version of an article that originally appeared in the "Thinking it through column of the November 25, 1991, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.