BOSTON — When violent and apparently random crimes occur - such as the shootings last week in Los Angeles or the recent ones in Atlanta - someone's first thought might understandably be, "Are my loved ones safe? Am I safe?"
There's a plaintive fear in those questions. And the Bible can quiet such fear. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.... his truth shall be thy shield and buckler" (Ps. 91:1, 3, 4).
The Bible gives many examples of how God can protect us in the middle of danger and attack. Daniel was safe in a den of lions (see Dan., chap. 6). The Israeli people were delivered from the Egyptians and led through the waters of the Red Sea (see Ex., chap. 14). Jesus was delivered from an angry mob that was determined to throw him down a hill (see Luke, chap. 4). Shackles dropped off the hands of Peter the Apostle as the result of prayer, and he walked out of prison the very night King Herod sent to behead him (see Acts, chap. 12).
It is reasonable to wonder what caused these events to take place. Was it just luck? Were these happenings miraculous touches of God's presence? Were they for another time only?
No, they were not luck, or random miracles, or something now obsolete. They were illustrations of God's love in action, which can be repeated today. They resulted from someone's understanding of the truth of God, a spiritual force that nullified the threatening evil.
As difficult as it can be to understand or sometimes agree with, the truth that is our "shield and buckler," our complete protection, is the fact that God is good and is All; that we are each without exception made in His likeness as His perfect reflection; and that evil, no matter how aggressive and harmful it appears, is actually not power.
To the degree that we accept these truths, we'll be safe even in the middle of a crime scene, and we'll help protect our loved ones, as well as other people.
Security systems, emergency communications, and trained safety personnel are vital to public safety. Reasonable people are grateful for the selflessness and expertise of those in law enforcement, and for the intelligence of the people who design their increasingly effective equipment.
But reasonable people also know that the best of all personnel, equipment, and precautions is sometimes not enough to keep us safe. That none of these can guarantee permanent freedom from the gnawing fear that random aggression may strike at any time. Something more is needed. And that something lies in what we come to know of God's power.
Along these lines, the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, asked a question: "Are material means the only refuge from fatal chances? Is there no divine permission to conquer discord of every kind with harmony, with Truth and Love?" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 394)
Elsewhere in the same book is an answer: "At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you" (pg. 571).
One of the marvels of divine Love, or God, is that it is able to make us meek. Meek enough to see ourselves and others so clearly as God's perfect sons and daughters that we can at least glimpse that evil is not made by God, and thus is ultimately unreal.
It may sound impossible at first, but we can come to glimpse a startling fact: that an apparently calculating and murderous individual is instead God's child. This is the very truth that will nullify that individual's hate and confusion, and protect us.
In a subtle way, is it possible that our common fears might even stir us to realize that we've been relying on the unreliable for our safety more than we should? Might they hint that we're yearning for something higher and holier to protect us?
God's love is right at hand to enfold our thoughts. To bring us into the "secret place" of knowing God is All and to deliver us from "the snare of the fowler," the fear that evil is real and random. To secure us behind the "shield and buckler" of glimpsing His perfect child.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society