Feelings about family run deep in every human heart. And successful family relationships have a ripple effect in the community – they encourage us. Encouragement is something we can all use in our day-to-day family communications, as well as when families gather during holidays or for summer vacations, as my family so thoroughly enjoys doing.
What I’ve found through the years is that what truly contributes to the success of family relationships is the encouragement that comes from the grace of God operating in my own heart and mind. Because every family member has individual tastes and desires, family harmony can be affected by these differences. The grace of God helps me nurture within myself spiritual qualities of thought that foster mutual love and understanding, rather than harbor thoughts that can lead to discord among family members.
So, what exactly is the grace of God? It’s hard to boil it down to a simple explanation, but we begin to feel its presence and power in our lives when we contemplate God’s nature as divine Love. The life of Christ Jesus reveals just what this Love involves – unconditional love toward every individual as God’s very own child, or spiritual reflection – compassion, mercy, forgiveness, tenderness, patience, and so on. The Bible says of Jesus, “The grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible gives this rendering of the Greek word for “grace” used in that passage: “The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.”
The same “divine influence” that was upon Jesus is here for us today because God is present everywhere at all times, for us to open our hearts to in prayer. The Apostle Paul, in his letters to the early Christians, repeatedly encouraged them to cherish this influence, saying, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all” (Phil. 4:23). Likewise, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of the Science of Christ, also known as Christian Science, acknowledged our need for grace as of primary importance in every area of life. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” she wrote, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (p. 4).
In my relations with others, it’s always humbling – and a great relief – to realize that the divine influence operating in my own heart is also quite capable of reaching into the hearts of others to comfort, care for, and guide them. Realizing this, and trusting others to God, takes human will out of the equation.
An important lesson reinforced in my daily study of Christian Science is that God is entirely good – in fact that God is not just a good God, but that God is good itself – and that His creation is therefore entirely good. Whatever is not good in human character, whatever is unlike God, is not actually part of anyone. The grace of God, “the divine influence upon the heart,” brings out one’s own and the other person’s real nature as God’s pure, spiritual reflection, promoting individual and collective respect, progress, and joy. And people are touched by its ripple effect.
Indeed, as Science and Health also states, “Christian Science despoils the kingdom of evil, and pre-eminently promotes affection and virtue in families and therefore in the community” (pp. 102-103).
I owe the love and harmony that exists throughout my family relationships to this truth. I know that when divine Love is reflected in my thoughts, words, and actions, it is felt in the hearts of my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren – and that it ripples out into their families, communities, and beyond. Such is the grace of God.