THE assassination of Rajiv Gandhi a few weeks ago postponed the stormy Indian elections that were being held at that time. The sectarian strife that has been so much a part of that nation's political process isn't limited to India. More and more often, violence and tense party blocs seem to characterize elections. As I was praying about this event, I remembered rather vividly an experience of sectarian hatred that I myself had had some years ago. It reminded me of the importance of loving not just our friends and those we approve of, but also those whom we may dislike very much. After an election, I had been very angry when a certain official was elected to a high office and had hated him from the moment I heard the news. Instead of subsiding, this anger persisted until it just seemed a part of my being.
Then one day he was attacked by a gunman. As I watched the news reports I suddenly saw very clearly that the hatred I had been feeling paralleled that violent act. And as I considered his family and those who loved him, I began to see that he wasn't a remote political figurehead. He was a real person with as much right to joy and life as I had. I prayed to see him as totally under God's protection.
The would-be assassin was apprehended; the political official survived. And I learned the importance of resisting the temptation to hate--whether it is hating someone because of a political party, a religious belief, or the color of his or her skin.
Christ Jesus made this clear in many different ways. In his Sermon on the Mount he laid out a set of rules that, if followed, would transform our politics and our lives. For instance, he set a much higher standard than loving our friends and hating our enemies. He declared, Matthew's Gospel tells us, "I say unto you, 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; that ye may be the children of your Father w h
ich is in heaven.
The love that Jesus was talking about isn't just a superficial love, of course. He was speaking of a change in thought that would lead us in a deeply spiritual direction. And I must admit that seeing opposing political parties try to outdo each other in being kind and loving would be wonderfully refreshing.
Yet this change is not beyond reach, as I learned in my own experience. It rests on Jesus' basic premise that our first love should be God and that love for others would grow out of that primary love.
None of us can be excluded from God, from divine Spirit, because each of us is in truth His spiritual offspring. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, makes this point in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes, "The one Spirit includes all identities. By the same token, we all have access to the good that God constantly gives us; no one is deprived. And as we give our allegiance first to God, we begin to see more clearly what causes merit our p a
rticipation. Our attitudes become more inclusive in relation to others.
As we pray for India or for the political contests closer to our own homes, then, we can listen for God's guidance in our individual lives. And we can also begin to grasp more of our true being, which is fully spiritual, naturally loving. This is our actual identity as God's children--whether in India or elsewhere. Through our willingness to express love to our God and to our fellow humans, we will be helping the world toward stability and peace.