IT appeared that everything at the crowded checkout counter that could go wrong, did. It began when a piece of fruit was knocked off and rolled out of sight. The final delay came when it was discovered that the entire lower shelf of items on the cart had not been tallied. I tore up the check I had already written and waited for the new total. I didn't have much time, and I could feel impatience and stress welling up into anger.
I knew better than to give way to such emotions. But my self-control was slipping and the temptation to react was strong. Yet Christian love holds us responsible for our actions and thoughts even in what seem to be the minor difficulties in our day. I resolutely turned my attention to something that Christ Jesus had said. He was talking to his students--ordinary people whose only distinction was a deep hunger to learn about God and a willingness to follow the Master's lead. What he said to them was as if he were saying it directly to me.
He told his followers, ``Ye are the salt of the earth.'' And then he added, Matthew's Gospel records, ``Ye are the light of the world'' (5:13, 14).
To me that meant that if I count myself a follower of the Christianity that Jesus established, I must recognize that while self-control may be a good start, only Christly obedience conquers impatience, anger, and criticism. The humility of Christlike love goes far beyond merely subduing stress to healing it--replacing it with genuine respect for others, forgiveness, joy, and freedom.
Being ``the salt of the earth'' does not make us superior to others, but so seasons our nature with spiritual qualities of love and dominion that we can readily understand how superior we are to the domination of impatience and anger. Being ``the light of the world'' does not put a spotlight on us, but so illuminates our own Christly nature that we are able to see the good in others as well. The light of Christ is not like a light bulb that can be turned on or off at will. Rather, it is a dawning realization of our status as the sons of God that influences all our actions.
As I remembered these Christly teachings, frustration drained away from my attitude. I said something kind and appreciative to the hard-working clerk. She laughed warmly. As I left with my purchases the customers behind me, who had been watching the scene in weary silence, relaxed and began laughing and joking with one another as if they had always been good friends. The entire atmosphere had changed.
Of course, I realize that what happens to me in a grocery store comes so far down the list of important world events that it's completely off the chart. Yet the healing that took place there, beginning with my own thought, has great import in today's society. There is an urgent need to heal the volatile situations, no matter how small, that occur when individuals react in anger to one another. Within the past year in our community, two tragedies occurred when minor traffic irritations escalated into uncontrolled rage and two drivers shot and killed other motorists. News reports tell of other communities struggling with similar problems.
Are such incidents preventable? Yes! Understanding that man is not the frustrated victim of circumstances, but is the image and likeness of God, shows us the way to freedom from the friction of society's stress. Christ makes us free. Christly action that begins with a proper estimate of who we all are as the children of God changes our way of looking at the world and our part in it. It brings a new perspective to our ability to meet world needs. It establishes our self-worth, and shows us that we can make a difference right where we are. Healing mankind's wounds with the light of Christ begins with each of us.
It is essential to recognize our real status as God's offspring. To be the salt of the earth, we must let spirituality be the spice of our lives--the inner strength that tempers everything we do and say in society. To be the light of the world, we must actively express Christly love, even when we are strongly tempted to do otherwise. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, rouses us to nurture such spirituality in our lives, and to express it in ever-increasing demonstrations of the powerful love of Christ. In this book she urges, ``Let us watch, work, and pray that this salt lose not its saltness, and that this light be not hid, but radiate and glow into noontide glory'' (p. 367).
Continue in prayer,
and watch in the same with thanksgiving:
withal praying also for us,
that God would open unto us
a door of utterance,
to speak the mystery of Christ....
Walk in wisdom
toward them that are without,
redeeming the time.
Let your speech
be alway with grace,
seasoned with salt,
that ye may know
how ye ought to answer every man.