WHILE it's true that we appreciate all the efforts being made for better relationships among people, human efforts to improve things don't always succeed. Our relationships with one another are reliably improved, however, when we come to understand the one sure relationship that is always good--our relation to our creator, God.
When we make our relation to God our starting point, our interactions with others change in such a way that our relationships are more loving because we ourselves are more loving, more gracious, more forgiving. In our relations with other people, the biggest need is often for our own individual, spiritual growth. The Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy, addresses this need straight on in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She says, ''What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds'' (p. 4).
''Growth in grace'' sounds wonderful, doesn't it? And we shouldn't be surprised that it brings with it improved friendships, more harmonious business interactions, stronger marriages. In my own case, I've found that turning to the Bible--especially to the strength of what Christ Jesus gives us in the Gospels--has been essential to the nurturing in my heart of my relation to God that promotes this growth. In the New Testament, in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus points directly to the quality of meekness when he says in his Sermon on the Mount, ''Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth'' (5:5).
I had my own notions of what meekness was, but until I looked to the truth of God's nature that is made so evident in the life of Christ Jesus, I was missing the real essence of what Jesus commends so strongly. I had been thinking of meekness as only a little bit better than weakness. But when I thought about what Jesus was saying, I saw that this could not be so. If Jesus commends meekness, it is anything but weakness. Meekness needs to be viewed through the lens of God's nature.
God's nature can't really be defined in any other way than by God Himself. He is speaking through love and has always done so--a real, comforting love that meets our needs. This is natural since He is divine Love itself. His nature can't be separated from what He does. So, His love is at the forefront of all that He creates and does. Man's relation to divine Love is fundamental, then. Love is the power that governs man; and man is the expression of Love. The inseparability of God, divine Love, from His creation, man, means that if we really want to understand ourselves, we need to look to God first. Every good and true quality that we embody is God-shaped and God-sent. So, when Jesus spoke of a virtue like meekness, he was describing an aspect of our spiritual nature, which finds its proper definition only in what our heavenly Father is like. Jesus wasn't looking at the best examples of humanity around him and picking out admirable qualities. He looked to God and drew on his unchanging closeness to God in all that he said and did.
''Patience, meekness, love, and good deeds'' are the substance of improved human relationships. And we express these qualities more fully as we grow more in our understanding of God's being and of our likeness to God. When we learn of the substance and depth of our likeness to Him, then all of our patience, all of our meekness, all of our love come from our understanding of God.
Of course, this is not to say we won't be tested in our relationships with other people. But it does certainly mean that no matter what the challenge is, we'll have our sure relation to God to depend on. The feeling of joy flowing from our own meekness brings us closer to others, because it shows us that first we are close to Love, God, who never fails in His relation to us.