One God - What Does That Mean in Bosnia?

WHAT does understanding the oneness of God mean to strife-torn Bosnia? It could mean the end of civil war--that cruelest of wars. It could mean the end of ethnic cleansing. It could mean a practical brotherhood as a basis for enduring peace in that pitiful land.

Many who are involved in this and other ethnic conflicts believe sincerely in one God, often called the God of Abraham. But the questions need to be asked: What is the relationship of the believer to this God? What are the believers' relationships to one another?

In the Bible, the book of Isaiah says of God, ``Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer'' (63:16). Christ Jesus, carrying forward his Jewish heritage, lived exclusively as the son of his heavenly Father. And he told his followers, ``Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven'' (Matthew 23:9).

One morning when I was praying for peace in Bosnia, I turned to the Lord's Prayer, with its spiritual interpretation as given in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. When I read the first line, ``Our Father which art in heaven,'' and the accompanying interpretation, ``Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious'' (p. 16), I saw the mutuality of the parentage of Muslim, Christian, and Jew. By acknowledging one God, each is actually affirming a harmonious relationship with that God and consequently with one another as children of one Parent.

It is obvious that this all-harmonious Parent would not create inharmonious children separated into warring factions. Although for centuries people have separated themselves into rival groups, we need not continue doing so. Indeed we must not, if we are to have a world worthy to bequeath to our children.

The richness of a multicultural world gives freshness and zest to our daily lives, while fear of differences limits experience. As we live in the light of the knowledge that God is our creator, the fatherhood and motherhood of God indeed become the foundation of our brother-and-sisterhood with one another. The joy of loving and valuing one another becomes the norm. We share in one grand culture.

The spiritual fact of our common parentage and inheritance breaks through the tyranny of a personal sense of ethnicity that would allow one group to justify trying to wipe others from ``its'' territory, and even, in extreme cases, off the face of the earth. Many of the upheavals we are seeing in the world are what happens when a spiritual fact, routing out entrenched beliefs, is resisted. For centuries millions have been praying to one God. Should we be surprised that the time has come for mankind more consistently and universally to be truly living as offspring of that God?

Accepting God as the actual Father-Mother of each one of us drains away a pervasive source of conflict--pride of ancestry. We can reverently redeem the natural longing for worthiness in ourselves and in our progenitors to an acceptance of our divine Source. And we can humbly say of ourselves, our progeny, and all mankind: like Father, like son--like His beloved son, in whom He is well pleased.

Mrs. Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, taught her followers to work and pray to eradicate all evil from the earth. She writes in her Miscellaneous Writings, ``Only by admitting evil as a reality, and entering into a state of evil thoughts, can we in belief separate one man's interests from those of the whole human family, or thus attempt to separate Life from God'' (p. 18). As those who yearn for the killing to cease in Bosnia refuse to believe in evil as a God-given reality, no one--Croation, Serbian, nor Muslim--can be separated from living the Life that is God. Refusing to enter into a state of evil thoughts about any of these groups purges ethnicity of evil. It allows the goodness of our many-faceted culture to shine forth, reflecting the radiance of our common creator in every part of the globe.

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