THERE are times when the sobering realization comes that perhaps the only difference between a heated argument and war is the number of people involved. It doesn't take weapons to destroy. And a conflict on any scale doesn't have to be ``public'' in order to have a detrimental effect on others. But what do you do when arguments drag on, and good friends can no longer see eye to eye, and relationships look threatened?
One morning while I was praying for the resolution of an argument that appeared to have serious consequences for those involved, I happened to glance down at a copy of this newspaper. There was a heart-rending photo of a young soldier (perhaps no more than twelve or thirteen years old) on the front page. The look in his eyes was penetrating and unforgettable. The longing and yearning on his face seemed to be a cry for help aimed at every individual who would read that paper.
Suddenly a question came so forcefully to my thought that it was as if the child in the photo had somehow spoken and said, ``Will you stop fighting so that I can? You could help stop all this needless bloodshed. Will you do it?''
Never before had I been so directly confronted with the consequences of so-called ``private disputes'' -- of all the unresolved, harbored hatred and hurt that go unchallenged or ignored. Never before had I seen so clearly the link between my life and the headlines of today's paper. Perhaps for the first time in my life I realized that peace is an individual responsibility.
Every victory gained when love nullifies an unrestrained outburst, when humility silences human will, when forgiveness disallows reaction, adds mightily to lessening the belief that fighting and war are inevitable. Every ``unstarted argument,'' every quiet refusal to speak an unkind word, every relinquishment of animosity, ill will, and revenge, lessen to some degree the world's hardness of heart.
There are times when even in the most important personal challenges, the issue must cease to be who is right or wrong; times when we must rise up out of ourselves to see that in every small conflict, as in every war, the issue is life itself. By this I don't mean simply a superficial, mortal sense of life managing to maintain some state of ``non-war.'' I mean something much greater than that -- our sonship with God, revealed in the life of Christ Jesus.
Ultimately we have to face the demand to understand ourselves spiritually, to grasp something of our indestructible life in God. And this can't be done through hatred or self-righteousness. We can neither discern nor help bring to light God's perfect spiritual creation through the materialistic thinking and acting that would deny that reality. The book of Isaiah points to the harmony we must strive to demonstrate: ``They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.''1
If there's a fight we must wage, it is mankind's collective battle against all that would oppose the understanding of God's creation, the understanding of the dignity and integrity of man's spiritual nature.
Through my study of Christian Science I've come to feel that sometimes the only responsible course of action in dealing with day-to-day difficulties is to break out of a merely personal, narrow sense of things -- to stop praying about my own situation and wholeheartedly pray for the world. Humanity benefits greatly from such decisions, and inevitably such unselfed prayer results in unspeakable peace for us individually.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, observes: ``True prayer is not asking God for love; it is learning to love, and to include all mankind in one affection. Prayer is the utilization of the love wherewith He loves us.''2 There are times when I have seen to an astonishing degree that the challenge I am dealing with really has very little to do with me and is more accurately understood as an issue that the world is crying out for me to pray about.
I've looked at that front page photo several times since the question first came, ``Will you stop fighting so that I can?'' And as I have thought about that child's life, it's amazing how easy it has been to answer (in both word and deed) ``yes.''
1Isaiah 11:9. 2No and Yes, p. 39. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9