Steps out of intolerance
A Christian Science perspective: What we can do to combat hostility in the world.
Intolerance toward others often seems to fuel so much hostility in the world. My dictionary defines intolerance as “unwillingness to grant equality, freedom, or other social rights.” The tendency to judge and condemn others on the basis of their religious, ethnic, racial, or political positions creates division, disrespect, and dissension. Very little progress is seen when intolerance is sitting at the table of local or world discussion – or even in our daily affairs with one another – where so much good is possible.
The Bible provides a practical and positive answer to this stalemate. In Christ Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he gives a rule in how to behave toward others – even to those we consider enemies. He says, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43, 44).
The Master’s teaching that we love one another is an important ingredient in establishing peace. A love that fosters respect lessens conflict, stress, rancor, division, etc. But sometimes the big question is how can we find it within ourselves to love one another? Jesus’ sermon offers a starting point. He turns his listeners’ attention to God, bringing us the understanding that God is the Father of all of us.
To be the children of God means that each one of us is a spiritual idea of God – representing God as God’s image, or expression, pure and perfect. Expressing God’s spiritual and all-embracing love, God’s children cannot include intolerance, or have an inharmonious relation with one another, because everyone belongs to God, our heavenly Father. Just as there is no conflict between the rays of light coming from the sun, there is no bitterness or intolerance between the children of God, who all come from the same source, and who inherently express the goodness of God’s true nature.
But these fundamental spiritual truths need to be discerned and understood. As we pray to understand God as incorporeal Spirit, we find ourselves drawing closer to God and to one another. As we learn that God is infinite, all-embracing Love, and that we are His reflection, it becomes natural to love one another, and we begin to see that hatred is counter to our true nature. As we learn that God is Mind and that we are all His perfect spiritual ideas, each individually expressing divine Mind, it becomes natural to see ourselves and others as God’s harmonious family, fully embraced by His wisdom and intelligence.
Intolerance on either side of an issue does not make either side happy. But acknowledging divine Love as everyone’s Father brings harmony and respect for one another into the atmosphere of thought and discussion. Divine Love includes no wrath, contention, or intolerance, just the fellowship of all-embracing and unselfish consideration for one another, which is evidence of the real state of our Christly being as God’s children.
The Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, “When the divine precepts are understood, they unfold the foundation of fellowship, in which one mind is not at war with another, but all have one Spirit, God, one intelligent source, in accordance with the Scriptural command: ‘Let this Mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 276). That’s a sound basis for building harmonious communications that remove hostility and lead to peace.