Confrontation of another kind

A Christian Science perspective.

It seems that confrontation in the world never ceases. Consider the violent sectarian clashes between security forces and militants in the city of Bauchi in Nigeria. The brinkmanship and aggressive rhetoric surrounding North Korea's nuclear weapons tests. The lingering struggles within the ranks of the unity government in Zimbabwe and those endured by Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma (Myanmar).

History has recorded similar confrontations at international, national, community, and family levels for centuries. Some of them are vividly related in the pages of the Bible, where many people proved the superiority of spiritual power over the same kind of physical or political force that still tries to propagandize the world today.

Admittedly, there are those who appear to thrive on confrontation. Others avoid it by walking off and hoping the problem will go away. But God's love alone restores harmony and peace. And from the standpoint of prayer, another type of confrontation is necessary for the purpose of healing.

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In facing up to Goliath, the shepherd boy David was not prepared to let the forces of evil – or domination by the anointed but deeply flawed King Saul – dictate the way he thought or acted (see I Sam., chap. 17).

Perhaps no one faced more challenges than Jesus. He offered helpful instruction in handling confrontation; as, for instance, when a mob tried to throw him over a cliff because they felt threatened by his teaching. Calmly, he "passed through the midst of them and went his way" (see Luke 4:28–30). Mary Baker Eddy, in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," referred to his "humble prayers" as "deep and conscientious protests of Truth" (p. 12).

Also, there was his confrontation with the devil, who offered to satisfy his physical, emotional, and psychological needs if Jesus would only fall down and worship him (see Matt. 4:1–11). His emphatic response, "Get thee hence, Satan," was unequivocal.

Christian Science, based on Jesus' teaching and example, makes a clear distinction between the person and the misdeeds or attitudes that appear to be attached to person. In spiritual reality, we are not surrounded or opposed by an assortment of difficult personalities, but can instead view others as God sees them – blessed with His patient, understanding, loving nature.

This view by no means ignores the problem, but instead recognizes that the confrontation is ultimately with impersonal evil, and not with the people who tempt others into anger and sometimes violence. The real battle lies within, and involves separating the materially flawed picture of an individual from the spiritually whole one. We each have God-endowed strength to select what will enter our consciousness. Healing solutions come when we discern the unique, spiritual nature of everyone we come into contact with, and the unconditional worth of their God-given character. Then it's natural to feel and express the love of God for all His creation, which helps us make wise compromises and experience peaceful outcomes.

Mary Baker Eddy linked the "stern condemnation of all error, wherever found" with the healing action of divine Love ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 18). And in Science and Health, where she described error as "the contradiction of Truth," and as "a belief without understanding," she wrote, "When error confronts you, withhold not the rebuke or the explanation which destroys error" (pp. 472, 452). Clearly, the demand upon the scientific thinker is to prayerfully denounce whatever is unlike Truth and to do so with precision and understanding. And, again, this rebuke is never personal but always directed toward the un-Godlike thought or action.

Jesus implicitly trusted his heavenly Father. He proved, for the benefit of the whole world, that the presence of the Christ brings resolution and healing. Ultimately, Jesus was forced to confront a sword-wielding mob in the garden of Gethsemane. Yet he didn't submit to anger – not even when his disciple Simon Peter angrily struck the high priest's servant with his sword. Instead, he healed the injured man. In front of the Sanhedrin, Jesus remained silent when falsely accused, confident that Truth is always victorious. He would not surrender; instead, he went on to prove that life is eternal.

There's a lesson here for all of us. We, too, need never submit to discords, or fight them as if they carry reality and power. We have a mandate to face up to them. Prayer alerts us to the ways in which evil works, deepens our analysis of situations, and gives us a clearer understanding of the love of God that ends conflict of every kind.

From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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