Gaining the Approval That Matters
RUDYARD Kipling wrote a number of stories for children in which he would now and then address his reader or listener as "best beloved. I had not read the stories recently, but one day, not long ago, the expression came to my thought and reminded me that we are all God's "best beloved. Here's what happened.
I had taken several actions that others had disapproved of. Since there were good reasons for what I'd done, I wasn't really worried that I'd made a mistake. But I was hurt by the disapproval I felt. As I normally do when I'm troubled, I turned to God in prayer to regain my peace of mind. I prayed to feel the allness of Mind, God, and the ever-presence of His goodness and love. In spite of much prayer that evening, I was still unhappy about these people's displeasure.
The next morning, however, when I thought about the situation again, I remembered the words "best beloved. The tender love they expressed reminded me of God's love for all His creation. This quieted my anxiety, and I soon thought of showing the people concerned a copy of the instructions I had been following so that they would have some idea of why I had taken the actions. This was just what was needed, and friendly feelings were soon restored.
Probably most of us like to be approved of, to feel that people are pleased with what we do and are. But when people aren't approving of us, for whatever reason, we can learn from Jesus' life where to turn for approval that doesn't come and go. Although Jesus was greatly loved by some, others were filled with hatred towards him. But this did not deter Jesus from continuing with his mission. He had the approval that really matters, the approval of God, whom he loved and obeyed. Matthew's Gospel records th at God had said of Christ Jesus, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
We learn in the Bible that we can all call God Father as His beloved children. As we begin to understand that God, Spirit, is truly our Father, is truly the creator of all, we begin to see something of our genuine, spiritual identity as the man God made in His own image and likeness. Recognizing that the man we all truly are is spiritual assures us that God is, indeed, "well pleased with His creation.
It's true that God would not be pleased with a mortal sinner, who is led astray by anger, sensuality, covetousness, selfishness, and so on. But we can progressively give up this false concept of ourselves as mortal and live more fully in accord with what we know of ourselves as God's likeness, the man with whom God is well pleased.
A remarkable account in Genesis illustrates the life-changing effects of acting in a way that gains God's approval. It's a story that could have happened today. Jacob had greatly wronged his brother, Esau, and as a result had fled to another country to escape the anger of his brother, who intended to kill him. Many years later he returned home in obedience to God's command. He had learned a great deal about his relationship to God in those years, but the day before he was to meet his brother, he was stil l very afraid. He spent that whole night praying, wrestling with materiality until, as the Bible tells us, his character was changed, and he saw God "face to face. The next day Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him. Jacob said, "I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. Reconciliation between the brothers was complete.
If others' disapproval stems from our own behavior, we can, like Jacob, give up even longstanding faults and so be restored to the knowledge that God is pleased with us. Even when we have acted with our best understanding of wisdom, love, and purity, people may disapprove. We should, of course, pray to see if there is some action we still need to correct. But after that we can remember that Jesus said we could rejoice and be glad in these circumstances, for our reward is in heaven. Mary Baker Eddy, the D iscoverer and Founder of Christian Science, describes heaven in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as "Har-mony; the reign of Spirit; government by divine Principle; spirituality; bliss; the atmosphere of Soul. This heaven is not a far-off or future state but is present with us now for us to know and experience in proportion to our efforts to obey God and live according to His commands.
When we genuinely try to do God's will, we have His love and approval. Indeed, John assures us in his first letter: "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God . . . . Beloved, now are we the sons of God.
We can be confident that God always loves and approves of all His children, that we are now each His "best beloved.
As I live, saith the Lord,
every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.
So then every one of us
shall give account of himself to God. . . .
The kingdom of God
is not meat and drink;
but righteousness, and peace,
and joy in the Holy Ghost.
For he that in these things serveth Christ
is acceptable to God,
and approved of men.
Let us therefore follow after
the things which make for peace,
and things wherewith
one may edify another.
Romans 14:11, 12, 17-19