MY father sometimes gauged the world's progress by his own family's changing methods of crossing the Missouri River. ``My great-grandfather swam over it,'' he would say. ``My grandfather rowed across it in a boat, my father drove over the new bridge in a horse-drawn wagon, and I crossed it in an automobile. What's more, my son flew over it in an airplane. That's progress!'' Mankind's gains are welcome and needed. But material accomplishments, however remarkable, have not brought security to the human race. Crime, immorality, mental and physical abuse of children, men, and women on a worldwide scale, quickly tell us that something more is needed.
Individual spiritual progress that ensures moral integrity is not an idealistic option today but a practical necessity. In view of the vast differences in customs among people, however, can individual commitment to spirituality have any meaningful effect?
The answer is yes! And the prime example is Christ Jesus. Progress on a material plane may have seemed slow during the era in which he lived two thousand years ago, yet who would deny the momentous leap forward for mankind that resulted from his ministry and his healings of injustice, tyranny, and despair? He championed spiritual development, exemplified its healing power, and taught his disciples to follow his example individually. His timeless teaching progressively spread to reach a whole world in need. While no one is expected to match the footsteps of the Master, there is nothing to prevent anyone from following in them.
``Every step of progress is a step more spiritual,''1 writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Beginning with humility and hope, our individual spiritual steps gather strength from the infinite love of God and ultimately break through boundaries of limitation to bless others. Widespread progress in morality begins with individual expression of such Christly qualities as care and compassion, purity and peace. Outrage at another's unreadiness or unwillingness to express the divine nature can't really forward progress.
Christian Science emphasizes the Biblical fact that everyone's true identity is the likeness of God,2 and therefore inseparable from the great goodness that constitutes the divine nature. In truth, then, man can be neither cause nor victim of ty rannical injustice, or of any other form of evil. Holding firmly in prayer to this true sense of man, right in the midst of world excesses and abuses, is not naive or unrealistic; it's a healing influence for good. Such commitment requires consistent obedience to the spirit and letter of the humane commands found in the Bible, especially the Golden Rule of love and respect for one another as taught by Jesus, and it brings forth spiritual progress that cannot be achieved in any other way.
In proportion as individuals strive to act in accordance with the Christly code of action, progress from rowboats to rockets will be matched by increasing dominion over inhumanity, and advancing civilization will not be accompanied by threats of advancing cruelty. Increasing spirituality is not outside the mainstream of realistic human progress; it is the harbinger of it. Mrs. Eddy writes, ``Spiritual causation is the one question to be considered, for more than all others spiritual causation relates to human progress.''3
Knowing mankind's need for spirituality, Christ Jesus put forth a simple directive toward that goal: ``Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.''4 Responding individually to that Christly command, step by prayerful step, each of us can have an important part in the world's progress. Every time one of us makes a genuine commitment to spiritual progress, the whole world quietly moves a notch forward toward safety and peace for all.
1The People's Idea of God, p. 1. 2See Genesis 1:26. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 170. 4Matthew 6:33. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me. Psalms 119:133