A Different Kind of Warfare

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

'The warfare with one's self is grand." That statement stood out to me in a book I was reading, "Miscellaneous Writings," by Mary Baker Eddy.

I thought it was a surprising statement. Warfare, after all, is not usually thought of as grand. But the meaning of those words became clear as I studied the whole paragraph containing the sentence. It reads: "Self-ignorance, self-will, self-righteousness, lust, covetousness, envy, revenge, are foes to grace, peace, and progress; they must be met manfully and overcome, or they will uproot all happiness. Be of good cheer; the warfare with one's self is grand; it gives one plenty of employment, and the divine Principle [God] worketh with you, - and obedience crowns persistent effort with everlasting victory" (Pg. 118).

Warfare, generally, is taken to be armed conflict between at least two groups of people, in which each sees the other as a physical entity to be opposed. But defining the foe as essentially negative thinking, the way that statement does, presents a different kind of warfare, as well as a different view of conventional warfare.

I've just been contemplating a small box that contains war medals and recalling the day I was handed a rifle and uniform. I was also shown pictures of the uniform worn by the "enemy." This enemy was the focus of our attention. It was our target. (Of course, from the enemy's point of view, we were the enemy. We were their target.)

Looking back now, I find it amazing to think that ordinary people on both sides were making life and death decisions about each other - and targeting one another based on the clothing we wore. Nevertheless, that was war, and war is not intelligent.

Today, with all the new technology and new weapons available, the popular view of modern warfare seems to be something more akin to the impersonal "zapping" that people like to indulge in with computer games. But destruction itself is not a game. It's a tragedy. The need for establishing something better is plain.

Here that message - "Be of good cheer; the warfare with one's self is grand" - is welcome. It changes the focus of attention from blaming and condemning others to correcting and healing our own thinking. It's a view that accords in one sense with the words of Christ Jesus in the Bible, "A man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 10:36).

Mrs. Eddy wrote a great deal about spiritual warfare in the textbook of Christian Science. "Self-love," she concluded there, "is more opaque than a solid body. In patient obedience to a patient God, let us labor to dissolve with the universal solvent of Love the adamant of error, - self-will, self-justification, and self-love, - which wars against spirituality and is the law of sin and death" ("Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 242).

So it's in going to Love, with a capital L, that you and I find the best way to purge thought of selfishness, self-ignorance, self-will, self-righteousness, and any other internal foe to peace and progress. This Love is synonymous with God. One of Jesus' followers, John, declared, "God is love" (I John 4:8).

Christian Science is based on Jesus' teaching. He proved conclusively that expressing God's love in daily living does dissolve selfishness, thereby healing individuals and nations. It reveals that He made us all to be and do good. "Love your enemies," Jesus said; "bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:44, 45).

On a global scale, it may be that total disarmament is not wise at present. But that does not prevent any of us, anywhere, from dealing with tendencies toward self-righteousness and self-justification we find we may harbor.

As we rethink our views about traditional warfare, we can still remember with respect and gratitude courageous men and women who have fought for liberty in days past. Courageous men and women are still needed to fight for liberty; it's just that the warfare we need to take part in, and the foe we have to contend with, are of a different sort. And as we all fight and win this spiritual warfare, we will have less warfare of the destructive sort.

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