Every summer for the last decade, some portion of my extended family has gathered for a reunion. Sometimes it lasts for an afternoon. Other years it has stretched into several days of camping, swimming, and relaxing. During the longer reunions, two of my favorite activities are the morning inspirational reading we do together and our mealtime conversations.
This year more than before, conversation turned to the state of the world.
Two relatives by marriage, a French man and a Korean woman, have enriched our originally all-American family with some global perspective. When the talk turned to the tragedy of last September, my French cousin said that the terrorist attacks on the US were shocking even in France. Nevertheless, he observed sadly, they were in proportion to the size of the country, reminding us of the long history of such violence in France and other parts of the world.
His comments launched us beyond a single nation-centered mentality to consider what it will take to progress toward global peace.
Our Bible reading that morning had included the prophecy from the second chapter of Isaiah, about God's rule being established in all nations. They will turn their weapons into farm tools, the prophet says (see Isa. 2:2, 4). How does divine power transform swords into plowshares or tanks into tractors? Isn't it by transforming attitudes of war such as self-centered, fear-based reaction into attitudes of peace, such as understanding and patient resolve?
Some family members felt that changes of attitude were needed in US foreign policy. My Korean sister-in-law then confessed that she has a hard time listening to any criticism of her adopted homeland. Her childhood memories of flagrant government corruption and injustice in Korea reminded us of how much we have to be grateful for. And my American sister gently pointed out that honest criticism has been crucial in developing and maintaining the level of freedom and justice this country has.
Differences of viewpoint disappeared in our morning devotions (an observation that could have worldwide ramifications).
My sister-in-law's accented and careful articulation as she read from Mary Baker Eddy's "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" highlighted the universality of these words: "One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed" (pg. 340).
I found myself thinking about this statement again and again to grasp the immensity of its message. God obviously doesn't right all wrongs as a super chess master reaching down to move pieces on a board. This passage says to me that our job is to understand God to be the one infinite good to accept with all our hearts that good is the only truth, the only power, eternally and now. Whatever is right in society, politics, religion, is an expression of God's goodness and will prosper. Whatever is wrong will be annihilated because it isn't of God.
Pray for this understanding every day, I remind myself. Keep praying until God is all to you, even for a moment. One God means that one spirit of Love "unifies men and nations." One impartial Mother-Father God "equalizes the sexes." One infinite good leaves nothing to fight over and so "ends war."
Spiritual understanding is power. It can melt attitudes as resistant as tanks and reforge them into constructive engines of cooperation and respect. To live close to the understanding of God is the most powerful contribution anyone can make to peace.
Our family reunion this year provided the opportunity to appreciate one another and to think beyond ourselves. We didn't lose a loved one in the attacks last September, but my mother's precious sister passed away unexpectedly later that autumn. We miss her. We look up to the infinite God good without end to comfort us and families everywhere. War and death can't destroy the goodness of God that is each individual's essence. Let this understanding grow, beginning with me.