Peace and our concept of man
MY professor and I had disagreed philosophically on the subject we were studying. I had been surprised at his anger toward my views during our recent class discussion. Now, seeing the same anger on his face as he returned my paper, I observed with dismay the paper's low mark. My first thought in turning to God was to seek justice for myself. I couldn't comprehend being penalized over a mere difference of opinion--especially in an institution where freedom of thought was supposed to be upheld! Yet, as I prayed to realize the divine Mind's control in this situation, the focus of my thought changed. I suddenly understood why the professor had behaved as he did. I saw how important his ideals were to him. It was almost as if his defending those ideals was tantamount to defending his sense of integrity and self-worth.
While I could not condone his action in regard to my paper, I now felt love and compassion for the professor. Seeing the good in his character changed my concept of him. I began to see him as I had learned to view man in Christian Science: as God's beloved offspring.
When I next attended the class it was as if the disagreement had never occurred. The professor's thinking must have changed, as mine had. Grades on future papers more than compensated for the low mark I had received. Not only was the sense of injustice eliminated but he now seemed to appreciate me as much as I had come to appreciate him.
Initially, both of us sought to defend only ourselves. It was the Christ, the spirit of divine Love that Jesus expressed so fully, which replaced focus on self with mutual understanding. ``Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness,'' 1 writes Mary Baker Eddy2 in the Christian Science textbook.
The desire to preserve one's sense of identity and meaning in life (which my professor's attitude seemed to typify) is among the root issues of many conflicts between nations and peoples. While we may not always wholly support the views that people are fighting for, we can nonetheless support through prayer the desire for meaningful identity that often un- derlies conflict.
Yet praying compassionately may not be easy when we believe people are using unwarrantable aggression to attain their goals, whether they are fighting for beliefs and ambitions that we consider to be wrong or they employ cruel means to achieve otherwise acceptable ends. How can we respond compassionately to people we see as cruel or unjust? If we feel that our love is inadequate in the face of extreme injustice, this may cause us to depend more wholly on God.
Turning to God, who is Love, as the Bible teaches, we find a source of unconditional love and compassion. This perfect Love, which is God, ``casteth out fear.'' 3 Those who practice the worst forms of tyranny and violence may themselves be victims of desperate fear, based --in the final analysis--on ignorance of divine Love and of their own secure and provable place in Love's plan. Only the love that comes from God can reach and neutralize this kind of fear--only the power of Christ, ``speaking to the human consciousness'' in a way that no material communication could approximate.
Turning to God as Truth, we find a higher view of man's nature than that provided by the physical senses. God knows His children as the image of Himself, as His loving and satisfied spiritual offspring. Why should we conclude that physical evidence--rather than the man God sees--must determine the characteristics of our nature, as well as our prospects for world peace?
We all have to struggle with the sometimes overwhelming evidence of evil. But when we see selfish misunderstanding and injustice dissolve in our own experience through the touch of the Christ, we recognize the power of humble prayer in elevating human nature.
When we keep busy with the prayer that is required to free our own natures from discord, we are less and less tempted to underestimate the challenge of bringing to light man's Godlike identity on a more universal scale. If we are grateful that God is showing us a way to resolve conflicts through the power of Love, we will be willing to continue the prayer for mankind that is so needed.
1 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 332. 2 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3 I John 4:18.