SUNDAY is the International Day of the Family, so it is perhaps especially appropriate to be thinking and talking about family values right now. People do care. They want to strengthen and support families, to help children have a moral foundation and upbringing, to ease the pain and heartbreak of family discord. But just talking won't heal the problems facing families today. If the talking leads to prayer, though, we're on the right track.
Looking at things from a spiritual standpoint can turn all our ordinary, worldly-wise assumptions and opinions upside down. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising, considering how radical spirituality is--how radically different from typical worldly thinking, that is. Even something as familiar and ``understood'' as family, when seen in a spiritual light, takes on new meaning. Christian Science, the Science of Christianity, explains the spiritual concepts presented in the Bible and demonstrated in the life of Christ Jesus. And, as far as family is concerned, it helps us view our relatives and our role as family members in a spiritual light, a healing light.
God, divine Love, is man's Father, and man is God's child, His spiritual, perfect likeness. God's fatherliness is not corporeal, of course. God did not create a physical form, a finite personality. Man is God's idea. A passage in No and Yes, by the Founder of the Christian Science Church, Mary Baker Eddy, explains: ``God is infinite. He is neither a limited mind nor a limited body. God is Love; and Love is Principle, not person. What the person of the infinite is, we know not; but we are gratefully and lovingly conscious of the fatherliness of this Supreme Being. God is individual, and man is His individualized idea. While material man and the physical senses receive no spiritual idea, and feel no sensation of divine Love, spiritual man and his spiritual senses are drinking in the nature and essence of the individual infinite. A sinful sense is incompetent to understand the realities of being,--that Life is God, and that man is in His image and likeness'' (p. 19).
This obviously contradicts the world's view of man and creation! But while the material senses are incapable of comprehending spiritual truths, our inherent spiritual sense does grasp man's true nature as God's child.
Looking at our family relationships from this spiritual standpoint may cause us to reassess completely the nature and meaning of these relationships. Man is the individual idea of God. God is All-in-all; He creates all and gives Life and substance to each one of us. We are all, in truth, fellow children of God-- members of His universal family. Understanding this spiritual fact brings added closeness and harmony to our families because it enables us to see beyond the world's limited definition of the family and gain a more spiritual view.
Isn't this why Christ Jesus could convey a broader concept of family, saying, as Matthew's Gospel records, ``Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? . . . Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother'' (12:48, 50).
The more we know of man's relationship to God, then, the better family members we will be. We can support the spiritual growth of our relatives by perceiving their (and our) true nature--rather than simply viewing them as, for example, a supportive (or selfish) spouse, patient (or irritable) parents, sweet-tempered (or moody) children. As the idea, or image, of God, man is pure and purely good; man is whole and wholly free; man is loved, lovable, and loving. The real man is completely spiritual and completely perfect.
Relationships with relatives often have a special closeness. Recognizing family members as God's ideas and understanding man's spiritual nature enhance our perception of belonging to God's family and actually bring us closer to our relatives. If we're faced with troubled family relationships, this spiritual understanding can help to bring harmony and healing. And even the best family relationships are strengthened and uplifted through the recognition of our real selfhood.
Putting this recognition into practice in the nitty-gritty of daily life demands patience--and sometimes forgiveness--but as we persist, our priorities and behavior naturally conform more closely to our genuine identity, which is spiritual. Cultivating and maintaining spiritual understanding demand consecration, and we can't really be consecrated without devoting time to prayer and to spiritual study. True consecration also means keeping our thoughts, and words, pure and loving--even in the privacy of our home.
This can be challenging sometimes. People often speak of going home to ``let their hair down'' or ``just be themselves.'' We may feel that when we're home we have a right to relax our conscientious efforts to think and live as committed disciples of Christ Jesus. Well, we should feel ``at home'' when we're at home. But we aren't fully at home ever if we try to leave God on the doorstep as we walk in our front door. It's as natural for us to turn to God wholeheartedly in family-related situations as it is in any other facet of our lives. This is what is truly ``being ourselves.'' As we look to God for guidance and help in homelife, we'll find that we feel closer to divine Love and far more at home! Our relationships at home--and outside the home--will definitely be strengthened. This will come about naturally as our goals and affections become more spiritual.
The work required for spiritual thinking and living benefits not only us and our relatives but also enables us to be of better help to our wider family--the family of mankind, which needs our love and our demonstration of God's healing power.