HAVE you ever been denigrated, criticized, or even abused by another? Have you succumbed to the impulse to respond in the same way? If so, you may have been left with a bitter aftertaste when the initial feelings of self-justification wore off. Must we accept that we are forever locked into a pattern of retaliation on an individual or on a worldwide basis? No, not if we're willing to yield humbly to the government of the one divine cause. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, gives us this powerful concept in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``There is but one primal cause. Therefore there can be no effect from any other cause, and there can be no reality in aught which does not proceed from this great and only cause.''1
This is no trite formula, but a dynamic spiritual truth that is provable in the experience of anyone willing to set aside materialistic reasoning and to entrust the resolution of an ``unsolvable'' problem to God's infinite wisdom.
For example, I had been in serious conflict with a close relative for years. Relations had deteriorated to the point where I felt I could no longer tolerate either having this person in my home or paying him a visit. Through persistent prayer in Christian Science I realized that in perceiving this individual as a sinning, meddlesome mortal, and in seeing myself also as less than God's perfect image, I was disobeying the Ninth Commandment, ``Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.''2
Doesn't this commandment, in a broad sense, instruct us to view each individual, including ourselves, as God has actually created man? The offspring of God must be infinitely more than a contemptuous, sinning mortal. As the image of Spirit, man's true selfhood can only be the flawless spiritual idea of God, never prisoner to a physical or social framework, and forever expressing the qualities of God, including purity, love, understanding, strength. This isn't an abstraction, because God isn't an abstraction, and I saw that to identify another as less than God's image was ultimately shortsighted and unacceptable.
As I held faithfully to this truth, refusing merely to react whenever things appeared turbulent, I gradually began to witness the dissolution of negative character traits, not only in the other person but in myself and in other family members. Constant, searching prayer revealed that feelings of loneliness, rejection, uselessness, and lack of love were the root causes of the jealousy and spite that had been targeted my way. I learned to claim and cherish a spiritually impelled sense of joy, despite adverse circumstances. Christ Jesus admonishes us, ``Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.''3 But we might remember, too, his comforting words to the disciples, ``Your joy no man taketh from you.''4
I found that endless mulling over what this person might have been thinking, feeling, and doing was fruitless and even self-destructive. Instead I began to have new feelings of compassion, a desire to share my home and family, and a willingness to assume the role of peacemaker. This led to longer periods of harmony and God-impelled peace, but there were also new and sometimes grotesque forms of disruption. Through study of the Bible and Science and Health I understood that the heightening of aggressive activity can, at times, merely foreshadow a complete resolution of the problem.
At length, after much study and prayer, I invited my relative to stay with us for a week. It was an experience to be treasured. Peace and love were freely expressed and received by all concerned. Former discords seemed a distant dream. A special bonus was his presentation to me, toward the end of his stay, of a beautiful sewing machine. The lessons learned from this challenging episode opened up wonderful possibilities for healing relationship difficulties within and without the home.
As we strive through prayer to heal our own thoughts regarding a troubling situation, we not only promote healing of that situation but we help in a modest way all those struggling against injustice on the world scene. The eradication of social evils on the large scale must begin with the heartfelt desire for reformation within the lives of each one of us.
The Bible tells us, ``The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.''5 Through such prayer we're able to fulfill Christ Jesus' admonition ``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.''6 Loving in Christ's way, humbly and without fear, we increasingly find freedom from conflict.
1Science and Health, p. 207. 2Exodus 20:16. 3Matthew 5:22. 4John 16:22. 5James 5:16. 6Matthew 5:44. - NO BIBLE VERSE TODAY -