WHAT a difference one word makes! In the Bible, Matthew's Gospel records that Christ Jesus taught us to pray that wonderful prayer we call the Lord's Prayer. I've been struck, lately, by the difference it makes to us that Jesus started that prayer by saying ``our'' rather than ``my'' Father.
The word my implies exclusivity, as if God could be the personal property of one group or one individual over all others. Just the thought of ``our Father,'' on the other hand, immediately recognizes God as the Father of all!
To think of God as specially aligned with one group or a single viewpoint runs counter to the Bible's assurance that God is universal Love. There is a story in the Old Testament that has always illustrated to me the love that is inseparable from God's protecting power. Because Elisha's warnings had enabled the king of Israel to evade his enemies, a strong enemy force had surrounded Elisha's village to capture him. Instead, the account in II Kings tells us, Elisha prays and takes the entire enemy army captive. But he does not allow the captives to be killed. They are fed and sent home. There is no further warfare between the two nations. I love this caring, yet powerful gesture of God's universal love (see 6:8- 23).
This Bible story can help us see that God, the Father whom we all share, is an impartial but ever-caring God who loves each one of His children. Our Father--since He is Spirit, not matter--attaches no bloodlines, no racial or ethnic divisions, to His creation. To Him, there is only the beauty and perfection of His individual children, who are spiritual and perfect. There is no competition for His attention, only full and equal love for all. If there is disagreement, if there is strife, then, reconciliation starts with the recognition that there is one God and He is our Father--the Father of all.
The Bible tells us plainly that man is made in God's image. God is infinite Spirit, and man is made in the likeness of Spirit, not matter. Creation is spiritual and God, divine Spirit, is the creator. Spirit, then, is the universal Father. This is why it's so important to remember that God is ``our Father.'' Knowing Him isn't a matter of being right in a doctrine or a ritual--it is a matter of opening our heart and thought to what He is saying of Himself and of us, His creation, each day.
That touches on an important point: there is work involved if we are really to feel the healing effect of understanding God as ``our Father.'' It's not enough just to agree casually to this fact. Sometimes, we have to revise our opinions and viewpoints drastically. There can be things to give up--old hatreds, for example, resentments, fears, bitterness. This is not often done in a minute, but accepting this task means that we are consciously joining the fold where ``our Father'' is the Shepherd.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Christian Science Church, urges us to give up inaccurate views of God for a true understanding of Him. She writes 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'' (pp. 576-577).
Stopping a war or even calming a neighborhood dispute is no easy task. One sure first step, though, is to recognize the one God, divine Love, who creates each of us and loves without reservation.
God is our Father, and in this our we all find our home in His care.