WE were pruning a climbing rose that had poured over the fence from the neighbor's garden into ours. Soon there were distressed cries from our neighbor, who viewed this clipping as destruction of her rosebush. Neither of us had realized how things looked from the other side. Fortunately, friendships, like roses, have wonderful powers of recuperation, and we were able to sort things out amicably.
The next year we were wiser. Before caring for some of our trees, we visited the neighbors who would also be affected. One neighbor came to look at the view from our side. Mutual decisions were made that cared for everyone!
At the very heart of Christ Jesus' teachings is a rule that is the lodestar of Christianity--the Golden Rule. It's found in Matthew's Gospel: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them. This is a constant reminder to be aware of how things look from the other side. Misunderstandings can so often be put right when the genuine desire is there to bless others.
An egocentric view sees only its own viewpoint. A God-centered view sees everyone as the child of God--worthy of the same love and care that we would wish for ourselves. This kind of loving is simple, though not always easy.
Many years ago I made a note of this saying: Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. The kind of loving Christ Jesus was advocating requires walking more than one mile. "Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain, he said in the Sermon on the Mount. Such practical love yields the understanding and compassion that are essential if we are to bring healing to divisive situations.
Love for our neighbor is not abstract. It becomes concrete whenever our actions are suited to our words. It overflows not only in our own lives but in our prayers for all who seem divided by differences of viewpoint stemming from nationality, race, religion, gender, generation, or anything else in the complexity of human experience. The love that transcends these differences has its source in divine Love, our Father-Mother God, who draws no distinctions between His children but loves all equally and unco nditionally. As thought moves from a limited concept of love to the infinity of divine Love, we gain a new understanding not only of God but also of our brother man.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains it this way in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "This human sense of Deity yields to the divine sense, even as the material sense of personality yields to the incorporeal sense of God and man as the infinite Principle and infinite idea,--as one Father with His universal family, held in the gospel of Love.
The Bible, in the book of Genesis, tells of the struggle that took place when the patriarch Jacob was wrestling with the fact that he was actually the son of God. As this reality of his spiritual identity dawned on him and he accepted it, he found he was able to look on the face of his brother Esau and see him as the son of God too. He tells Esau, "I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.
When we have accepted God's love ourselves and feel the peace and security it brings, we can learn to look on the face of anyone, anywhere, and say, "Here too is the beloved son of God. When this is how things look from our side, it will be no surprise when we start to encounter the neighbor we are seeing!