THE Bible tells us in Luke's Gospel that when Christ Jesus countered the devil's temptation he pointed out, ''It is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve'' (4:8). I've come to see how true it is that serving God is truly satisfying. But, in my childhood, fighting enemies seemed the highest service.
My native country has a strong tradition of national pride. Compared with fighting enemies, the message of Christ Jesus to love our enemies didn't seem very exciting when I was in school. There didn't seem to be much fame or glory in loving enemies!
One Bible story, though, did catch my interest. It was about a man who achieved lasting remembrance because no one remembered him. The story takes just two verses in Ecclesiastes. It goes like this: ''There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man'' (9:14, 15).
Saving a city is no mean achievement--glorious enough even for my childhood fantasies--and not being remembered for it seemed a bit unfair to me at first. But when I thought about it later, my view changed. The man, we're told, was wise. His wisdom would tell him there's more to life than personal adulation.
That story stayed with me when I went to sea as a sailor in a time of war. I was only in my late teens, and had notions of making my mark in the world. But hours of duty on lookout, gazing searchingly over oceans and skies, altered my view on life. I came to realize that fulfilling one's purpose in life does not require personal acclaim. Saving a besieged city, and not being remembered for it, began to make sense.
At that time, too, I was learning the meaning of prayer. I had a Bible with me, and studied it whenever possible. I was also studying a book called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science. True freedom, I was beginning to learn, is founded on Love, on God--not on hate and the destruction of enemies. As Science and Health tells us, ''Love is the liberator'' (p. 225). God is Love, and man--each of us--made in God's likeness as the Bible describes man, reflects God's love.
Today we hear reports of racial and religious strife that are almost unbelievable in their extent and cruelty. But we're not helpless. We can help in a wide variety of ways. Above all, we can pray. We may not be praised for our compassionate prayers, but if people are healed and liberated, we can be satisfied.
We can start by acknowledging God as the universal, all-loving Principle of life itself. By letting God's love dissolve fear and hate in our own thinking, we take the first step in destroying all fear and hate.
Prayer begins with a sincere desire to feel and know God's presence. With hearts and minds purified by this prayerful desire, men, women, and children of every race, nation, and religion can be seen in the way God has made all of us--spiritual, whole, and free.
In the Bible we read of Jesus praying, and of multitudes of people being healed of all kinds of ailments and liberated from sin. We learn that some of Jesus' disciples, in prison and chained, found their chains dropping from them and their prison doors opening as they prayed and glorified God. Glorifying God is our main purpose in life, and it's the most satisfying way we can serve.
Mrs. Eddy writes in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: ''Each day I pray for the pacification of all national difficulties, for the brotherhood of man, for the end of idolatry and infidelity, and for the growth and establishment of Christian religion--Christ's Christianity.'' And she adds: ''Each day I pray: 'God bless my enemies; make them Thy friends; give them to know the joy and the peace of love' '' (p. 220).
As you and I acknowledge God as divine Love, and strive to reflect God's all-loving nature, we too can pray with love and help those who need it. We may not be remembered personally for our prayers--and probably will not--but the world will be a better place because of them. And we are satisfied that we are truly serving God.