WHEN someone speaks unkindly and unfairly to us, we may be tempted to strike back with a verbal jab of our own. Or we may conduct a kind of cold war, sullenly brooding over this person's insensitivity. Unknowingly we can find ourselves returning criticism for criticism, hurt for hurt. But repeated hurts and the lack of genuine satisfaction from bruising others back may cause us to begin looking for an alternative to this cycle of mutual battering. And we find one in the life of Christ Jesus. The Master said, ``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.''1
Are we really capable of this kind of love? An answer is suggested elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul writes, ``For God hath not appointed us to wrath....''2
God, who is infinite divine Love, has not made man to be angry, resentful, self-righteous, inflammatory, but to be loved and loving. Our real, God-established identity includes peace and unity, not animal actions or reactions. So it is natural for us to express forgiveness and affection. Hatred cannot build up or be carried forward in our lives when we're conscious of ourselves as divine Love's spiritual offspring. And it is this consciousness that helps to bring healing.
Jesus was not calling us to an impossible standard of love but to live in accord with our true nature. However, actually learning to ``bless them that curse you'' calls for practice and persistence. Personal pride and underlying fear would thwart our efforts to live in Christly love with one another. So we need to turn thought steadily to the truth that God has made man to manifest love.
It is good to remind ourselves frequently that, contrary to appearances, the children of the one Father are not created to collide, irritate, or impede one another. The mortal appearance of discord and division cannot overthrow the spiritually established nature of reality as intact, harmonious. And as we cling to the all-inclusive harmony God is always causing, we begin experiencing the unity and fellowship that are rightfully ours.
Does this mean that we are to ignore or merely endure assaults of unfair criticism? Ignoring or stoically enduring evil has no place in Christian healing. Instead, such healing involves actively seeing ourselves and others as ruled by Love and therefore undominated by sin.
Sin ultimately brings its own suffering, until the sinning stops. So we need not try to correct another by keeping suffering on his back. Instead we can be part of sin's destruction by holding to man's God-given spiritual identity and refusing to react to sin. ``It is error even to murmur or to be angry over sin,''3 says Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science.
Elsewhere she says: ``More love is the great need of mankind. A pure affection, concentric, forgetting self, forgiving wrongs and forestalling them, should swell the lyre of human love.''4
If another persists in embracing sin, there may come a time when wisdom bids a separation from that person. But there is never a time when we should give up our efforts to see him as the beloved child of God's creating.
Personal animosity and hurt will progressively cease as we labor to respond to divine Love instead of reacting to mortal misstatements or misdeeds -- intended or not. We can prove that divinely inspired tenderness halts the cycle of anger.
1Matthew 5:44. 2I Thessalonians 5:9. 3Science and Health, p. 369. 4Miscellaneous Writings, p. 107.