ONE of the tenderest family stories in literature is found in the book of Ruth in the Bible. A woman kindly urges her widowed daughter-in-law to return to her native home where her people can care for her. Refusing to leave, Ruth declares her devotion in simple, eloquent words: ``Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.''1 How encouraging to hear of individuals whose relationship is so strengthened by spiritual bonds of love and loyalty that it endures great hardships, ultimately bringing happiness and fulfillment to all involved! This moving story reaches across the centuries and strikes a responsive chord in anyone with a deep appreciation for strong family ties. Families face complex challenges. Division and discord urge us to recognize that steps to protect and stabilize this nucleus of care and support must begin. One way to bring healing to family relationships is to grasp the importance of this vital factor: respect for the individuality of man.
It may seem paradoxical that a better understanding of individual identity can bring harmony and healing to a family. Yet we see this is true when we consider that the God-derived qualities which hold a family together -- love, moral integrity, forgiveness, trust -- are expressed individually. A higher, more spiritual view of each family member reveals individual value that brings the strength of Christly character to the family. Reaching beyond a superficial, personal view of individuals in order to discern the spiritual goodness in them enables us to glimpse something of the beauty and distinctness of man's true, spiritual individuality. Mary Baker Eddy2 writes, ``Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God.''3
Man's identity is really determined by his relationship to God. From this comes every spiritual quality needed to bring strength and permanence to family relationships. To know more of our unity with God and to bring it out in our lives, obedience to the Ten Commandments is vital. The fidelity and obedience required by these moral laws lay the groundwork for purity, faithfulness, honesty, and love in our relationships to one another. The Bible doesn't teach us to abandon family bonds but to gain a purer concept of man as he exists in the family of God. We should never be timid about learning this Godlike view of man and bringing it into our families, for perception of the spiritual nature provides a firm foundation for family unity by healing individually.
A teen-ager, the youngest member of a busy family, sometimes felt left out of family activity and began to develop relationships and interests that made the rift seem even wider. During this time he began to suffer from a painful, recurring back condition. Free to choose his own method of treatment, he asked for medical help, which would have included a procedure that did not guarantee complete recovery. He decided against this course and asked for help through Christian Science from a family member who spoke to him of his individual spiritual excellence. She emphasized his God-given uprightness and integrity, assuring him of his right to be happy with the unity and equality that God provides for His family.
Both were uplifted by this Christly view of individuality. When the young man learned not to reject his family but rather to reject any reluctance to accept family responsiblity, his back was quickly healed. And as he realized his own worth as a valued and loved family member, the whole family became closer, happier, and more respectful of each other's rights.
Respect for spiritual individuality begins at home, but it doesn't end there. It deepens and expands until it reaches that Christian directive to ``honour all men.''4 The world's need for family unity, made secure by individual expression of love and loyalty, compassion and gentleness, has not lessened since the book of Ruth was written. More than ever, the family of mankind needs the enlightenment of harmony, peace, and progress. This enlightenment shines every time an individual realizes his right to exclaim: ``Thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.... Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.''5
1Ruth 1:16. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 516. 4I Peter 2:17. 5Psalms 18:28, 35.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Lo, this only have I found, that
God hath made man upright.