What changes an angry maximum security prisoner into a man who loves learning about Christian healing, art, and the birds that fly past his cell window? What could reach someone who seemed little more than a coldhearted cog in an oppressive system, driving him to save the victims of his obsessive eavesdropping on a good man's private life? What reached soul-deep to change the ways of a man who deceived his father and cheated his brother out of his inheritance?
Bible readers will recognize the third example as the story of Jacob and his brother, Esau. Anyone who has done something wrong and wants to change – even after years of failed efforts – will find hope in Jacob's life story.
Following his act of deception, Jacob spent years in turmoil, culminating in a long night of struggle. He was so changed that God gave him the new name Israel. Commenting on Jacob's transformation in a book that lays out the laws of spiritual transformation and Christian healing, Mary Baker Eddy observed that Jacob "had conquered material error with the understanding of Spirit and of spiritual power. This changed the man" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 309).
How does someone get such understanding, especially if his or her life heads in the opposite direction? That was the case with the man in the first example. Though still in prison, he has gained in his understanding of God, and of himself as spiritual, made in the image of God, never defined by human history. And this awakening "changed the man." Change has come gradually as he reads the Bible and Science and Health, prays in his cell, and allows the newly discovered spiritual ideas to renovate his thinking.
This might look like divine intervention, but it's actually the natural fulfilling of a Bible promise: "All thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children" (Isa. 54:13).
The eternal Christ, the spiritual nature that Jesus lived, is God's agency of change – Deity's corrective, liberating true idea and message to humanity. Christ is always speaking to each individual, showing the way to embrace our God-given identity and the way out of condemnation. It's what halts the downward spiral of wrongdoing.
Which brings us to the middle example. The oppressive system was the state security police (Stasi), which pervaded life in the German Democratic Republic prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The 2007 Academy Award-winning "The Lives of Others" depicts a society's escape from spiritual and intellectual suffocation through a fictional Stasi officer's surveillance of an author. While no openly spiritual impulse moves him to act, the officer's transformation seems prompted by a glimpse of goodness he discovers in his prey – and then in himself. Goodness begets love, and love "changes the man."
As people search for solutions to incidents such as the Feb. 14 shootings at Northern Illinois University, the film's theme suggests a key question: What can penetrate the emotional shell and mental haze that envelop some people? What will touch their hearts, free them of destructive impulses? The best hope is the penetrating, life-changing power of good, of God's love for each individual.
So it's significant to pray for the dawning of God's love in each heart, for Christ's saving touch. Mary Baker Eddy saw this in terms of a demand for the action of God, divine Mind, in human lives: "The necessity for uplifting the race is father to the fact that Mind can do it; for Mind can impart purity instead of impurity, strength instead of weakness, and health instead of disease. Truth is an alterative in the entire system, and can make it 'every whit whole'" (Science and Health, p. 371).
The desire for wholeness is universal. In our search to be whole, people can change. And the divine Mind is right now supplying the ways and the means.
Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.