A ZEALOT wraps himself in the banner of religion, and then, in the name of that which is holy, commits horrendous atrocities. Every major religion of the world has suffered such abuse. Christianity is not alone in this predicament, just as it is not alone in its teaching of brotherly love and of mutual respect for one another. But for the genuine Christian, such abuse perhaps triggers a special anguish. It is more than saddening to see the legacy of the man who taught ``Blessed are the peacemakers" dragg ed in the mud and blood and blamed for acts it never sanctioned.
Threads of this sort of abuse of religious teaching run through many wars. Threads of it run through the current crisis in the former Yugoslavia. History records an ancient confrontation where a Serbian leader, in the name of Christianity, battled against Muslim ``infidels." The episode, though devastating from a military (not to mention religious) point of view, has nonetheless become enshrined and taken on almost mythological proportions.
What effect does that, and other like episodes, have on us as modern-day followers of Christ Jesus, living at a safe distance from the immediate crisis? Does it drive us into cynicism or despair or into self-righteous indignation to see the name of our religion so misappropriated that it is used to justify the evils it should combat?
What if instead we are moved to a deeper exploration of what Christianity really is? That might do more than assuage our own anguish. It might even open a new window in thought through which prayer could reach those caught in the conflict, those who are most in need.
If we view Christianity merely as a system of teachings, however wonderful, designed to regulate social behavior, then it is not surprising that we find it often being perverted. But there is a deeper view of Christianity, one that gets back to actually following Christ Jesus in our daily lives. This view requires us to act according to his teachings. As we begin to see that genuine Christianity grows out of accepting the inescapable demand to follow Christ Jesus' example--to live in a way that is absolu tely inseparable from Christ--we will also begin to see that, in truth, Christ Jesus' message is unpervertible. Christ, the spirit of Love, then becomes a law to us, maintaining our adherence to pure Christianity and enabling us to see more evidence of its unvarying love in our lives and our world.
Using the term Love as a name for God and the word demonstration to define the proving of spiritually scientific truth, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, speaks of Christianity as the demonstration of divine Love. In a single passage in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures she outlines what authentic Christianity is not-- and what it is. She writes: ``Christianity as Jesus taught it was not a creed, nor a system of ceremonies, nor a special gift from a ri tualistic Jehovah; but it was the demonstration of divine Love casting out error and healing the sick, not merely in the name of Christ, or Truth, but in demonstration of Truth, as must be the case in the cycles of divine light."
Our purpose in getting a clearer evaluation of Christianity's true nature is not so we can have peace of mind when the term is abused or misappropriated. Our purpose is to see Christ's Christianity as a living and present force for healing in a region that is so sorely in need of it.
The healing power of Love is as vital now as it was in Jesus' time. When the master Christian was confronted by an armed band about to arrest him, one of Jesus' disciples reacted by severely injuring one of the men. The response of Jesus, however, was to heal the injury caused by his own follower. Christ would not let authentic Christianity be perverted into a justification for bloodshed. That was certainly a proof of the healing power of Christly love.
Divine Love is not what one person may or may not feel for another. It is God. It knows. It acts. It is. And one of the ways divine Love acts is in demonstration. It demonstrates its own nature through man, the spiritual expression of divine Love. And that demonstration is pure, authentic Christianity.
Seen in these terms, Christianity can't help being a powerful agent for change and healing. The demonstration of divine Love restores hope, neutralizes hate, buttresses peace. This kind of living and true Christianity can even overcome the abuses committed by those who misappropriate its name.
Those who care about bringing healing to the Balkans will be doing much good as they perceive Christianity in its true light--and then daily live and love on the basis of that perception. Then God, divine Love, will be found to be acting on behalf of those in need, whether or not they themselves yet understand what Christianity truly is. Such prayer can reach all who need healing and regeneration; it can certainly reach Christians and enable them to be true Christians.
Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.