The wife of a recent sniper victim who survived the attack said something I could hardly believe. She said: "Pray for the attacker."
I am familiar with Jesus' instruction to "pray for your enemies," but I have to admit I have never taken it quite this seriously and therefore can't remember a time when I have diligently prayed for my enemy. But something broke through my own complacency when I heard this woman's plea.
Now I'm left with the hard part praying in a meaningful way. I don't feel as if I have enough insights on what is behind these attacks. I listen to the radio and TV, like many people. Experts speculate, but no one really knows why this is happening.
I want to do what's right, and I want to help, so I know that I have to trust that God will give me the ideas I need in order to help in a meaningful way ideas that are powerful and useful. It's reassuring to realize that perhaps I'm just being called upon to play my own small but important part.
When I feel concerned about situations in the world, I sometimes find it helpful to look more closely at some of the issues I'm working through in my own life and the spiritual ideas that are helping me do this. This morning I was praying about feeling tempted to do something wrong, and I came across an idea in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy that turned things around for me. In her definition of man, Mrs. Eddy says that "man," which refers to each of us, "is the compound idea of God, including all right ideas" (pg. 475).
I started identifying myself with this fact that I include right ideas, rather than sinful thoughts and I found release from that pull to give in to doing the wrong thing and found my way to doing what is right.
I pray to know that this attacker includes the ability to know and act on right ideas ideas that will guide him to turn away from evil, from killing, and to make the better choice of caring about life his own and others. A minister, Larry Tingle, said the following at one of the victim's funerals: "Whoever this perpetrator is has surrendered himself to darkness and evil" (The Boston Globe, Oct. 22).
I find myself thinking that no one has to surrender to evil impulses. I believe in the supreme power of good, the power of Truth itself, to convey, in our thoughts and in our hearts, what is right and good. That's what I believe the Christ is and does it's the voice of good, God's spiritual message to us, compelling us to be good and do good, just the way we are made to be.
There's no doubt that we have an obligation to listen to and act on those messages. But let's never forget the important fact that those impulses are there, within the range of everyone's thought. Evildoers may be hidden for a time, but they can never escape from that divine message.
The Bible speaks about the time when Saul, a devout Jew, was hunting down Christians throwing them in jail and having them killed. But one day all of that ended. He heard a voice, a message from God, asking him why he was doing these awful things. This encounter with Truth made him see what he had been doing wrong. From that time on he started being himself and doing good (see Acts, chapter 9).
That same Christ, Truth, is here today, able to communicate, to turn our lives around. Mrs. Eddy describes the Christ this way: "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" (Science and Health, pg. 332).
As I am writing I hear the details of the latest shooting. I remember that the Truth can also break through the crippling fear that so many people are grappling with, and reassure us that we can never be separated from God's great love and care.
Paul came to see it this way: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:35, 37-39).