WARS and rumors of wars are no strangers to the Middle East, and the situation in the Persian Gulf illustrates both conditions. As nations jockey for position, parents and loved ones around the world hold their breath, praying for the safety of those on the firing line. At times like this, it's only natural for our thoughts to turn to a man who was born nearly two centuries ago in the Middle East. To many, he is known as the Prince of Peace, because he represents Christ, the spiritual idea whose message speaks of God's love for man.
Yet the period in Jesus' life that seems most akin to this time isn't the lowly manger scene, recently commemorated. Instead, it's the time just before the crucifixion -- and resurrection. Tension and danger filled the air. And Jesus knew that he was facing the greatest challenge of his career.
Amid this turmoil, he spoke to his disciples in words that echo down to us today. As John's Gospel records them, he said, ``Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.''
Jesus knew that the world's peace could come and go as leaders rose and fell. But the Christly peace he gave his disciples -- and us, his followers -- was based on the permanence of man's relationship to God.
This peace came to Jesus through his prayer, his conscious spirituality, and through the many proofs he had seen of God's healing love. Even more than this, perhaps, was his certainty that man cannot be separated from God, from divine Life.
The Master's knowledge of man's eternal spiritual unity with the Father had been a landmark of his ministry, and it would preserve him even in the face of death. And as various events in his healing work showed, the impact of his teachings cut across national and religious boundaries. It healed the servant of a Roman centurion and the child of a Syrophoenician woman. Later, the apostles also found that the power of Christ would touch nonbelievers as well as Christians.
As we pray for peace -- really permanent peace -- in the Middle East and in our own lives, we too can start from this spiritual understanding that man is inseparable from God. Since God is Mind, and thus the source of all intelligence, we can turn in prayer to this Mind. Through our actual spiritual unity with God, Mind, each of us reflects and responds to divine intelligence. This infinite intelligence isn't limited to solutions that have been tried before. Nor does God perceive man in finite terms. As a result, the spiritual inspiration that comes from Mind can open us -- and our nations' leaders -- to new ideas. Solutions no one has thought of before can appear.
The Bible also tells us that God is Love. In practical terms this means that the divine solution we all are praying for can include the legitimate needs of all involved. God doesn't know man as Arab, Israeli, European, American. Each of us in our true identity is God's spiritual offspring, or idea.
The universality of the Christ speaks to individual human hearts, no matter what their religious beliefs or political standpoints. And our prayers for peace need to include a large measure of love for all parties if they are to illustrate something of the Christly approach Jesus took. Even on the night he was betrayed and taken to be tried and crucified, he was able to stop for a moment to heal one of his captors. Jesus' behavior has set a high standard for us, but we can follow him, to a degree, if we are willing to love.
Speaking of the sufficiency of Love in every case, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space. That is enough!'' Jesus proved this spiritual fact over and over again. It was enough to sustain him through the horrors of the crucifixion and it brought with it the fruit of the resurrection. He showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that God's love for man surpasses all threats, even death itself.
Jesus started with his own life in proving God's love for mankind, and we can begin there as well. As we pray, let's expect the peace that comes from Christ, Truth, to pervade our own lives. Let's do what we can individually to respond with love to our fellowman and to embrace the whole world in our love and in our prayers. Let's work to build bridges, eliminate ruptures, love one another.
Every effort we make will be an affirmation of God's infinite love, and will in turn bring to our prayers for the Middle East the power of Christ, the power of the Prince of Peace.
Healing through prayer is explored in more detail in a weekly magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel.
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear....
Come, behold the works of the Lord....
He maketh wars to cease
unto the end of the earth;
he breaketh the bow,
and cutteth the spear in sunder;
he burneth the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know
that I am God:...
I will be exalted in the earth.
Psalms 46:1, 2, 8-10