IT'S an interesting word. When you hear it, it has a ``soft'' feel about it. Yet we can't really afford to allow good works to come to mean something soft as in ``less-than-practical'' or ineffective or weak. Doing good means all that stamina means. It means all that moral courage means. It means all that strong and resilient mean. Even when we fear we aren't strong enough to measure up to some challenge, we can learn that there is a spiritual power upon which we can draw. I know a woman who felt nearly crushed by overwhelming challenges when her children were young, her husband out of work, and her own mother in great need. But she said she prevailed because she loved each one so much that she couldn't stop doing whatever was necessary to overcome those hard times.
Real benevolence is synonymous with love. It increases strength even when we may feel we're being drained of all our energy and inspiration. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science and faced considerable challenge in her life, wrote that she was in awe of genuine love, which she came to see was far more than a human emotion.1
As we begin to see that love comes from God and that the power behind lasting affection between people actually has its source in God, divine Love, then we see love in an entirely different way than when we imagine it comes from limited, human things. It's tremendous to witness what happens when people act for the sake of goodness. For example, I passed a group of homeless people who congregate from time to time in an area not far from where I work. As I approached three who were standing near to each other on a cold day, I could hear their con-versation.
One had accumulated enough money to buy a plate of food. Turning to the other two, he said, ``Here, share this with me.''
``No, you go ahead and eat,'' the other two kept saying. But he persisted; he wanted to give of what he had. Finally all three shared in the meal.
The scene was reminiscent of a brief episode that took place one day when Christ Jesus was in Jerusalem. He observed the generosity of a poor woman who gave all she had in contrast to those who possessed much wealth, but who gave only a small portion.2
Mrs. Eddy says: ``Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power. As a human quality, the glorious significance of affection is more than words: it is the tender, unselfish deed done in secret; the silent, ceaseless prayer; the self-forgetful heart that overflows; the veiled form stealing on an errand of mercy, out of a side door; the little feet tripping along the sidewalk; the gentle hand opening the door that turns toward want and woe, sickness and sorrow, and thus lighting the dark places of earth.''3
Any good act -- growing out of the spiritual understanding that man is innately valuable because he is the spiritual creation of God -- possesses divine power. It is a spiritual force that actually begins to neutralize the fear and evil that cause sickness and sin.
In the midst of shocking wrong and injustice, Christian Science has a crucial mission in lifting up the spiritual understanding of man as good because he can't be separated from God. We can't be separated from divine Love, and we live through reflecting that Love.
Once we begin to sense how valuable man is because of his wholly spiritual nature as the reflection of God, we begin to feel something for ourselves and others that is not merely a human sentiment. Such affection is evidence of God and man transcending matter. In a very real sense, matter becomes the temporary and changeable; Spirit, God, becomes the actual. And we get glimpses of the truth that our real selfhood is all-spiritual.
As we begin consciously to live this divine reality as the child of God, Christ Jesus becomes less the miracle-worker and more the friend -- like a friend whom we would follow wherever he went because we know we can trust him. We begin to see why he was concerned with the so-called weak and powerless, the homeless and the ill, the brokenhearted and the repentant. We begin to feel the brotherhood of man that doesn't allow the denigration of any person.
This experience is prescient of spirituality. And once we've experienced it, we won't be satisfied without striving for the total spirituality that bases prayer and healing and good works.
Don't be surprised if you come to feel that you can't possess spirituality unless you share it. This is the foundation of genuine benevolence.
1See Miscellaneous Writings, pp. 249-250. 2See Mark 12:41-44. 3Mis., p. 250. This is a condensed version of an editorial that appeared in the August 22 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.