When Principle Governs Our Actions

Bringing a spiritual perspective to world events and daily life.

DURING the Second World War my father was imprisoned in a camp in which there were also a number of doctors held captive. These physicians used their medical skills to treat their own sick as best they could under the circumstances. One doctor, however, insisted on offering his services to treat their captors too. He explained that he saw himself as bound by the Hippocratic oath unconditionally, not according to who it was that was sick. Feeling bound to respond to any suffering he could relieve through his ministrations, this doctor let the principle of the Hippocratic oath govern his actions.

It can be inspiring to learn of an example, such as this doctor's, of one who refuses to be selective in implementing the principle to which he has committed himself. When it involves sincere commitment to an unselfish ideal, rather than dogmatic determination to hold to a rigid position, loyalty to one's principles evidences moral strength. This is so because such devotion to impartiality derives from the very nature of God, who is divine Principle, Love.

Getting to know something of God's nature as divine Principle--the Bible speaks of Him as the universal Lawgiver and law enforcer--highlights our own need to be more all-embracing in our affection, compassion, and care toward others. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, writes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ''Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters' '' (p. 13). As we more fully understand this true view of God's loving impartiality, we will find our actions being governed by the divine Principle, with healing results.

A small incident that illustrated this to me occurred while I was ushering at a talk our church sponsored. The caretaker of the hall we had rented seemed to be making a deliberate effort to disturb the event. At one point he got a crate of empty bottles and started to wheel them noisily toward a door. At first I was tempted to demand angrily that he be quiet, since we had paid to hire the hall. What I actually did was to act according to what could be called the principle of turning the other cheek, as Christ Jesus recommends in the Sermon on the Mount. I got up, walked over to the door, and courteously opened it for the noisy caretaker. He gave me an odd look, as if he hadn't expected that response, and from that moment on he made no more noise.

Christ Jesus certainly evidenced the love that proved the source of his thoughts and actions to be unvarying Principle. The Gospel of Matthew records that Jesus required his followers to express this same impartial love themselves. He said, ''If ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect'' (5:4648).

Even if we know unselfed Love should uniformly govern and guide our motives and acts, however, we may at times find it hard to maintain a uniform affection. We can learn to obey divine Principle, Love, more dependably as we understand more of God's nature and become convinced that man, as the spiritual idea of God, expresses God's nature in all he thinks and does.

The more our individual actions are consciously governed by divine Principle, the better will be the world's experience of ethics, morality, and community. By progressively ensuring that Principle, which is inseparable from Love, governs our own actions, we play our part in contributing to humanity's growth in each of these important spheres.

Judge the people righteously. -- Psalms 67:4

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