WHEN hostages Terry Waite and Thomas Sutherland were released this past November, Mr. Waite reported their kidnappers asked forgiveness for what they had done. A hostage-taker said that hostage-taking was wrong. One has to feel that more than shifting political pressures contributed to that conclusion. Surely the lives of the hostages themselves--their prayer, integrity, quiet strength--communicated something about true justice and its foundation in love.
In a time when humanity seems acutely aware of injustice, we are in special need of learning more about the relation between love and justice. We all need a higher means of redressing wrongs than by injuring others. The words of Christ Jesus, "Love your enemies, speak to that need with a fresh power. This love isn't an angry or frightened coexistence with someone who has done what more than justifies the label "enemy. It is a refusal to operate within the framework of division and hatred, to be thrown do wn from the pinnacle of an understanding of man's spiritual nature. This is the love that God, divine Love, fosters in His creation. It is a transforming power.
The New Testament is a handbook on that love, its spiritual underpinnings, and its liberating effect. From the depths of the prison where the Romans unjustly shoved Paul and Silas came the sound of their songs of praise and prayer to God. These efforts produced more than comfort; the prison doors opened and the prisoners' manacles were somehow broken. When the prison keeper woke from sleep, he was ready to kill himself, believing his prisoners had broken out. But they hadn't left the prison, and Paul sto pped the suicide attempt. The result was that the man and his household ended up "believing in God. When Paul and Silas were officially freed, even the Roman magistrates had to acknowledge their civil rights.
Commenting on Christ Jesus' command to love, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes: "Love your enemies, or you will not lose them; and if you love them, you will help to reform them (Miscellaneous Writings). Loving those whom we have come to view as our foes or opponents is actually the only way to defeat humanity's enemy-- whatever would inhibit justice and peace. This enemy is not some particular person or culture. It is the assumption of intelligence without love and wi thout truth, of mind filled with hate, mind where there is no God, no eternal good. This is the enemy that the kingdom, or law, of Love overthrows.
God's law is not simply a record of statutes and rules; it is the activity of divine Love, which re-forms the receptive heart and neutralizes that which would resist good. The revolutionizing effect of divine Love's governing is seen in the healing work that Christ Jesus taught and accomplished. Those touched by Love's law learn more of how to follow Jesus' command "Go, and sin no more. The changes brought by the activity of Love are not superficial; they reach to the very core of life. They show man's t rue nature to be entirely spiritual, born of innocence and love. This individual rebirth gives the firmest foundation for a law-abiding and law-respecting world. When we let Love form our responses to others, we help open the way for our own and others' rebirth--and the rebirth of justice in our societies.
This is a condensed version of an article that originally appeared in the "Thinking it through column of the January 13 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.