ATTACKING people at prayer--as was done recently when Palestinians were murdered and wounded by a Jewish extremist-- challenges peace in the Middle East. It is, sadly, just one illustration of the deep-seated fears and angers that are affecting peace efforts not just in that part of the world but also in South Africa, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and elsewhere.
Sometimes those who advocate violence claim that it is justified as part of a larger plan or is even a service to God. Yet the Bible's message of man as created in the divine image and likeness surely indicates that all are the children of God and are under His care. The teachings of Christ Jesus and his followers make very clear that God is Love, and that those who wish to serve God must also love one another.
Yet confusion often arises because we misunderstand the nature of God. We think of Him, perhaps, as One who loves some, but not others. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, gives a completely different view of God, showing that He is impartial, divine Love. In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she makes clear how a truly loving God behaves. She writes, ``The lawgiver, whose lightning palsies or prostrates in death the child at prayer, is not the divine ideal of omnipresent Love. God is natural good, and is represented only by the idea of goodness; while evil should be regarded as unnatural, because it is opposed to the nature of Spirit, God'' (p. 119).
Because God inspires only good and loving acts, it follows that He would never motivate deeds that are destructive. The commandment God gave to Moses regarding life and death is succinct. It is, Exodus records, ``Thou shalt not kill'' (20:13).
What tends to lead people into deadly behavior is the belief that man is material, living within the confines of a material body, subject to all kinds of material boundaries--land, education, money, and a host of other things. Prayer makes a difference when it is based on the knowledge that man is actually spiritual, the image of God, Love. Since each of us has this heritage, we are all united under one divine Father. This means that we can make real strides toward peace as we drop mortal--materialistic--beliefs and opinions, and identify ourselves (and others) with our real being as man, the offspring of God.
God's man, His spiritual reflection, is incapable of hating, murdering, and committing terrorist acts, because he can express only love, intelligence, and goodness, the nature of his divine Father. As we accept this to be our and everyone's true nature, we find it much easier to give up the temptation to judge or condemn others. This enables us to pray affirmatively--to recognize that we all are brothers and sisters, the children of Love. Hatred has no foundation, no reality, in Love. The expression of divine Love, therefore, excludes and annihilates hatred.
The change begins with our own lives. By regarding ourselves and everyone else as ideas of Love, disputes are resolved more readily and more peacefully in our daily relationships. It becomes easier and easier to reach out with love toward our fellow beings in tangible ways.
As our confidence in the power of prayer grows, we find greater willingness to reach out in prayer to the rest of the world. Working for peace and keeping peace are strengthened by active prayer, mental alertness, and quiet joy. We each have the opportunity to contribute to this effort. And as we do, the world will move closer and closer to permanent peace.