THE loyalty and devotion to parents often considered the duty of children, has played a central role in many cultures. Perhaps the Chinese culture has been most closely identified with this tradition of filial piety. And yet, in the People's Republic of China in the middle of this century the belief that one's foremost loyalty was owed to the communist state and to its political leader replaced, to some degree, the traditional devotion to parents. Both customs, however, when practiced in various countries, have sometimes caused strain within families and a feeling of restriction for individuals.
Many centuries ago, there was a leader who addressed the subject of loyalty to parents in a new light. He was Christ Jesus. He taught that we should obey the Biblical commandment in the Old Testament book of Exodus ''Honour thy father and thy mother'' (20:12). But he also taught us that our true Father and Mother is God, that our original being is not a mortal but God's spiritual offspring. He explained that our foremost duty is to love and obey God, divine Spirit.
Jesus once said, as Matthew's Gospel records: ''He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me'' (10:37). Jesus wasn't asking for devotion to his personality; he was pointing out the need for total loyalty to the Christ-the true idea of God-that he was so fully identified with.
This loyalty to God and His Christ does not involve, however, disrespect or coldness toward one's parents. Since God is the true Father-Mother of everyone, we are all united as fellow children of God. The more devoted we are to God, the more we see ways to fulfill His good purpose for His children by loving and helping those around us, including our families.
This consecration to divine Spirit helps us to understand better our own spiritual selfhood as God's child. Through this spiritual understanding, we experience greater harmony, better health, freedom from fears and sins, and heightened intelligence and ability. We also find that we can increasingly follow Jesus' example in healing others of fear, sin, and physical ills.
Although this devotion and loyalty to our heavenly Parent may sometimes cause us to make decisions our human parents may not understand or approve of at first, we can be confident that our spiritual devotion must inevitably bless both us and our family members. Our efforts to see all as God's loved children, embraced in His perfect care and maintained as His flawless image, can only bring greater joy and peace. Putting God first enables us better to perceive and support the inherent freedom, strength, and dignity of everyone we know, including our parents.
The Founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, Mary Baker Eddy, pointed to this when she included in the Manual of The Mother Church a By-Law requiring that all Church members pray each day not only for their own increased obedience to God's reign, but also that all mankind more fully experience the government of God, divine Love. Mrs. Eddy says in this By-Law: ''It shall be the duty of every member of this Church to pray each day: 'Thy kingdom come;' let the reign of divine Truth, Life, and Love be established in me, and rule out of me all sin; and may Thy Word enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them!'' (Art. VIII, Sect. 4).
Loyalty to God brings us the joyous blessing and power of purity. And it enriches the affections of all, healing conflict and frustration.
Children, obey your parents
in all things:
for this is well pleasing
unto the Lord. . . .
And whatsoever ye do,
do it heartily, as to the Lord,
and not unto men;
knowing that of the Lord
ye shall receive the reward
of the inheritance:
for ye serve the Lord Christ.
Colossians 3:20, 23, 24