WHEN Christ Jesus was being crucified, he prayed aloud, ``Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." He met the hatred of his persecutors with compassion rather than condemnation. For mankind as a whole, and for Christians in particular, this remarkable response by the great Master typifies the nature and practice of genuine Christianity.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the Science underlying Jesus' life, founded the Church of Christ, Scientist, on God, divine Love, as the healing Principle. Quoting from the Bible, she writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, `` `God is Love.'" And she adds, ``More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go."
Mrs. Eddy learned from experience and spiritual inspiration that the primitive Christianity of Jesus was based on Love, and that it was through the power of divine Love that the master Christian healed.
How can you and I learn to practice the pure Christianity that Jesus taught? Christian Science shows us that we have to begin with God, and with the Bible. God is divine Spirit, or Mind, the universal cause, the creator of the universe including man. The real man--our genuine identity--is wholly spiritual. By acknowledging and accepting our God-given, spiritual identity, you and I learn to love and to heal spiritually.
In practicing Christianity, we always need to heal ourselves first. If problems confronting us seem to be the result of other people's thoughts and actions, the most effective remedy is not to try to straighten them out. The Christianly scientific solution is to correct our own thinking. By ensuring, for example, that our own thinking is free from anger or self-righteousness, we are able to some degree to see ourselves and others spiritually in the way God made us. This process, carried out through praye r, has a healing effect. It guides us, also, in taking appropriate action to resolve conflicts in our lives.
We read, in the Bible, of Jesus and his disciples looking for shelter in a Samaritan village. But, Luke's Gospel records, the Samaritans wouldn't accept them because they were obviously heading for Jerusalem. Two of the disciples wanted to blast the Samaritans with fire from heaven. But Jesus rejected this attitude. His mission was not, he told them, ``to destroy men's lives, but to save them." They went to another village.
Few of us ever experience total tranquillity in our lives. To a greater or lesser degree, we all suffer something of the pains, sorrows, and hardships of human existence. But even where strife seems greatest, we can, and should, maintain our spiritual sense of compassion.
In my own life, as I look back upon thoughtless things I've done, I pray often, with sincerity, ``Father, forgive me, for I did not know what I was doing." It is easy to find fault or to condemn. But these attitudes do not heal. Only compassion based on an understanding of divine Love can do that.
Arguing and feuding over who's right and who's wrong-- condemning and counter-condemning in vicious circles of self-righteousness and indignation--are pointless. The better way-- the healing way--is to follow the way of pure Christianity demonstrated for us by Christ Jesus; we need to love instead of hate.
If you and I, as individuals, enlist in this spiritual activity, and meet hatred and thoughtlessness with compassion rather than condemnation, we can do much to help clear misery from our troubled world and make life a great deal happier for everyone.