Loving, Instead of Hating, Our Neighbor

IN the United States, February is designated as ``Black History Month.'' It's a good time to review the progress society has made in supporting civil rights, as well as to recognize the distance that remains to be covered before harmony among all people--of all colors and ethnic backgrounds--will be established. That this isn't just an American challenge is evident in the conflicts in Bosnia and in other forms of ethnic and racial strife that we see around the globe. In short, humanity needs our prayers for the establishment of true brotherhood and the elimination of hatred from our world.

At the heart of racial or ethnic hatred is the belief that we are mortal beings, separated from each other by color, personal history, and a host of other factors that seem completely beyond our control. If someone accepts this material scheme of things, it seems reasonable to join with others ``of our own kind'' to resist those who are of ``another kind.''

Through her discovery of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy provides a very effective way to overcome such conflicts. Following the example of Christ Jesus, she turns us away from mistaken views of humanity and directs our thoughts to God. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she writes: ``It is ignorance and false belief, based on a material sense of things, which hide spiritual beauty and goodness. Understanding this, Paul said: `Neither death, nor life,...nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God' '' (p. 304).

To lift ourselves out of the mental mire of hatred, then, we need to turn our thoughts toward the love of God, not just for ``our group'' but for all. This was the spiritual reality that Christ Jesus lived and proved. And through prayer, we can bring such spiritually based love to bear on our world, country, town, neighborhood. We can begin by understanding that God is divine Principle, is Love, and that man is made in His image. Then, instead of thinking of ourselves as mortals locked in combat, we perceive ourselves and others as we truly are--as God's spiritual ideas, united through our oneness with our divine Father. From this spiritual standpoint, it is natural for us to express the lawfulness of Principle and the flexibility, goodness, and intelligence of divine Love.

This newly accurate perspective brings us into harmony with Christ Jesus' teachings, as expressed in these words from First John: ``Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God'' (4:7).

Knowing God better makes it easy to trust in His ultimate guidance even as we pray diligently to see evidence of Principle in action. Principle's direction ensures that intelligent solutions are found. And we should persist in prayer until this is accomplished. Since Principle is also Love, we can look for a healing solution that will help meet everyone's genuine needs. In this way, our trust in God embraces all parties instead of building walls between them.

Sometimes such spiritually based love also requires us to be willing to forgive past wrongs and to build new relationships. This isn't always easy, especially if we feel that we have been deprived of good by the deeds of others. But, as the Bible passage quoted earlier makes clear, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

This means that our individual relation to God is sacred and forever intact. Right now God's infinite love is pouring out for you and everyone without any let-up. There will never be a time when any of us can be deprived of this love. As we begin to feel even a little of this love that God has for us and for our neighbors, it washes away the fears that would prevent forgiveness.

Each step we take toward loving our fellow beings and overcoming whatever would separate us from them makes a difference not just to our own lives but to the world at large. These ripples of love, perhaps small at first, go out to embrace all people in genuine and lasting harmony.

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