IN this time of conflict and challenge on several different fronts, it may seem easy sometimes to feel a vengeful desire to see an enemy attacked and destroyed. Yet those who believe in God, particularly in the Christian teaching that God is Love, have an obligation to resist the impulse for revenge. And the basis for resistance is in the life of Christ Jesus, the man we accept as our Master. Here was a man of such courage and spirituality that even as he was on the cross he was able to ask God to forgive his persecutors. ``Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,'' are his compassionate words, recorded in Luke's Gospel. At first, we might view this as the exceptionally noble sentiment of a man who is definitely without parallel. Yet the theme of forgiveness runs both through Jesus' teachings and through the New Testament. It tells of a God who loves and who redeems.
Paul's first letter to Timothy speaks eloquently of this when he tells Timothy to pray ``for kings, and for all that are in authority.'' And he goes on to give a reason for this. He writes of God as one ``who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.''
This spiritual salvation comes as humanity is able progressively to give up the belief that man is purely material and that the only way to security and power is through matter -- whether in the form of money, weapons, or territory. Each of us can contribute to this salvation by praying to understand man and his relation to God as Jesus did.
The basis for Jesus' life and teachings was the actual spirituality of man and his inseparability from God. It is on this basis that forgiveness is possible, and it is from this standpoint that we are able to defeat the impulse simply to annihilate an enemy.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, knew that forgiveness for sin required reformation. But she also saw the pitfalls of the human tendency to judge others without considering our own need for repentance. Speaking of the need for reformation, she also addresses this other aspect of the question when she writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``Revenge is inadmissible.''
At first, giving up a desire for vengeance might seem very challenging. Yet within the context of the Master's life, it is reasonable, even necessary. How we carry out this demand within our own lives, and within the larger life of nations, is something that takes much prayer and thought.
We can begin by striving to see our lives and the situation of others as being within a spiritual context. We can pray to understand that God, Love, is ever present, even in the midst of war. To understand that God's mercy is expressed and has power even in times of great desperation. We know from Christ Jesus' life that commitment to God may not necessarily save us from suffering. But his example shows us that God does and will sustain us, whatever challenges we may face.
In a very real sense, our willingness to pursue peace with our families, neighbors, and colleagues allows us to put into practice the love that Jesus expressed so well. Yet more than this, it is an acknowledgment of our own spirituality, our own unbreakable relationship to God. And as we are willing to accept our true nature, and to live in accord with it, our thought expands to include not just those who are nearby but others around the world. We begin to see that our mutual spirituality unites each of us in the worship of one God. And knowing that God is in fact divine Love instills in us the desire not for revenge but for the salvation that Christ Jesus' life has come to symbolize for all mankind.