Reports of crime in the neighborhood can make one feel uneasy. The affected community may work to rebuild its sense of security by hiring more police, improving street lighting, and imposing strict curfews. In addition to this, community efforts to reduce poverty and provide better educational opportunities for all community members can help eliminate crimes of desperation and strengthen the fiber of the community.
To eliminate crime entirely, wouldn’t we also need to address other issues that cause criminal behavior? Wouldn’t we need to address things such as dishonesty, disrespect, greed, and hatred that seem to come from within individuals? As Jesus pointed out, “Evil thoughts come out of the heart” (Matthew 15:19 New International Reader’s Version). To end criminal behavior, we need to reach the heart of people with the healing touch of divine Love.
Jesus’ life, recorded in the Bible, shows us how to love as God loves. This spiritual love changes people’s hearts. Knowing that God is only good and is the true Father and Mother, the governing Principle, of all humanity, Jesus looked beyond the erring human personality to discern the pure and perfect spiritual identity of an individual. Jesus loved – deeply appreciated and acknowledged – this true identity. When he met Zacchaeus, a corrupt tax collector, Jesus loved him as God had created him, looking beyond his corrupt behavior to perceive reality – Zacchaeus’ honesty and uprightness (see Luke 19:2-8). This perfect love reached the heart of Zacchaeus and changed his behavior. He pledged to return the money he had taken unlawfully, recompense for the wrong he had done, and reestablish his life on an honest foundation.
An experience I had one night gave me a glimpse of how this spiritual love can help decrease crime today. I was suddenly awakened out of a sound sleep. As I lay in bed listening, but not hearing anything in particular, I became concerned a theft might be taking place on our street. Since I had no tangible information to share, just a feeling that something was amiss, it didn’t make sense to call the police. I turned to prayer because I’ve always found it to be an effective help.
My prayer that night grew out of this idea from Mary Baker Eddy: “The Principle of all power is God, and God is Love” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 278). With that as my starting point, I affirmed the power of God, ever-present Love, to protect my family and the neighborhood. As I continued to pray, it occurred to me that because God’s love is universal, this love also embraces any would-be thief.
Right at that moment, God loved the honest and intelligent nature of everyone on our street, even anyone who didn’t belong there. God was loving the ability of each one to do what is right and good. These prayers brought me some peace. But then this question occurred to me: What if a theft has already occurred? After praying more, I realized if a person or people had made a mistake and stolen something, they could, with the support of God’s love, recognize their mistake, leave behind what they had stolen, and find a more productive way to live. I was very comforted by this thought, and I went back to sleep.
The next day, as I left my home, a neighbor excitedly asked me, “Did you hear what happened last night?” She went on to explain that a garage on our block had been broken into. When I expressed my regrets about this, she interrupted me to say, “No, no, that’s not all! Whoever broke into the garage left everything that they had stolen in another neighbor’s backyard a few houses away.”
This experience helped me understand how each of us can, through our prayers, help diminish crime. Jesus revealed the pure and good spiritual individuality of each of us. Let’s love this true individuality as Jesus loved it and so bring out the best in everyone.
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