Land and Identity

LAND is a highly prized possession. But conflicting ownership claims--whether between nations or individuals--are a tragically common source of suffering. How can mankind move beyond land disputes and the heartache and grievances that accompany them?

One way to begin is to consider what land signifies. Isn't land closely tied to identity? It may embody a people's view of their history, for instance. Land ownership may be considered a sign of a person's worth.

But land itself is not the source of our identity. Ultimately it's qualities of character, more than material landmarks, that show who we are. Doesn't this hint that it is possible to look away from land as a determiner of continuity or self-worth? Generosity and uprightness, for instance, aren't limited by geography or measured in acres or hectares. Indeed, such values transcend cultural and geographic differences.

Perhaps this seems only a pleasant ideal that is no match for bitter legacies of hatred and fear. But it is more than that. It is a radically different view of identity--a spiritual view--that is a practical support to progress in resolving the disputes and actual wars over land that are plaguing today's world.

From the Bible we learn that God, almighty Spirit, is the sole creator and governor of man. It follows that man's real identity must be wholly spiritual and only good, like its Maker. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians in the Bible, points to this identity of every one of us as ``being rooted and grounded in love'' (3:17). This love, however, isn't merely human affection. It's the love of Christ. Christ teaches us the truth of our eternal relationship to God as His loved offspring.

The greed or covetousness that would jeopardize peace by making people fear that there isn't enough land to go around is a boldfaced distortion of the truth. Such falsity is part and parcel of the evil that Christ Jesus called ``a liar, and the father of it'' (John 8:44). But God, divine Love, fully cares for His entire creation.

As a result of his understanding of Love's universal care, not only did Jesus lack nothing himself, he fed and healed multitudes. He loved without regard to social or national labels. His identity was spiritual--completely independent of location or national boundaries.

As the Son of God, surely Jesus' loving purpose was to show all of us what we're capable of as children of God. He taught his followers to live as he did in accord with God's law, loving God and loving their neighbors as themselves. This does involve being willing to view ourselves and our neighbors as belonging, in reality, to God's universal family. As we endeavor to follow Jesus' example, even in a small degree, we find that this spiritual viewpoint is completely natural to us as God's children.

Doing our best to live in this way is a strong support to the resolution of land disputes. Even if we're not directly involved in a specific dispute, how we think and behave does affect our world. Even a glimpse of the fact that our identity is secure in Spirit can bring freedom from fear. And we'll be less intimidated by the notion that well-being can be harmed by shifting material conditions.

True identity isn't confined within the lines on a map or on a family tree. It's not captive to ancient feuds. Hatred and lawlessness are powerless to separate man from God's supremely loving will. His mercy impels forgiveness and provides recompense. There is abundant room in His ever-present love for all His children to dwell in safety. Humbly praying with such truths, we're receptive to divine Love's allness. Resources of goodwill and creativity that may have seemed hidden become clearer.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear,--this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony'' (pp. 323- 324).

Aren't divisive labels like easterners versus westerners or northerners versus southerners a kind of false landmark? True landmarks include the Godlike qualities that alone describe man-- qualities such as brotherly love and righteousness. These aren't just good intentions cropping up from time to time. They're constant spiritual facts. Each one already includes them as God's child, controlled by His law of good. Exercising spiritual sense, an acceptance of Spirit's supremacy, we discern more clearly the Godlike qualities in ourselves and others.

To look to God, Spirit, rather than land, as the basis for identity doesn't diminish the usefulness of land or the need for careful stewardship of land. Certainly the world's resources need to be equitably shared. And as we turn to God and trust His perfect care for man, we see that impartial, divine Love shepherds and fulfills true aspirations. This is prayer that helps loosen the grip of land disputes and gives us a sound spiritual basis for the generosity that ensures all are cared for.

BIBLE VERSE The Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it.

Deuteronomy 15:4

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