One cold night, I was first in line as a cab pulled up to the station. Another man who heard where I was going asked if he could share my ride, and I gladly agreed.
When this man found out that I worked in a church-related ministry, however, he suddenly launched into a tirade against religion! It turned out he was a lawyer - and he used all his well-honed oratorical skills to criticize my faith.
As I meekly tried to offer a case for the defense, the main thing I endeavored to do was to be Christian, and not to feel I had to win an intellectual battle. When we arrived at his destination, he got out of the car, slammed the door, and went off seething.
Because this hostility seemed overwhelming, I called a friend for support. She guided me to pray for peace of mind. We recognized that this man's thoughts and words came from ignorance of what Christian faith and practice actually are, and we saw that the encounter could in fact prove profitable to that man.
I continued to pray from the basis of my desire to emulate Christ Jesus' example of forgiveness. And I didn't stop until I had cleared my thought of any lingering shock and, more important, of a desire for retaliation.
The Bible contains many accounts of humanity's intolerance of the aspiration to practice a real, living spirituality. This was certainly true in the conspiracy that led to the crucifixion of Jesus. Yet even on the cross, Jesus said of those who were crucifying him, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). What an example of an appropriate response to any attack on the right to be spiritually devout.
It's not essentially our fellow human beings, but what the Bible calls "the carnal mind," that opposes spirituality (see Rom. 8:7). An attack may seem to come from an outside aggressor, or more subtly, it might appear to come within one's own thinking as nagging doubts about one's right to realize the spiritual dimension of life. But either way, the attacker is really just a mistaken, materialistic way of thinking that has to be conquered by holding fast to God's reality, goodness, and power.
The carnal mind is, according to Scripture, "against God." Since whatever is against God would also be against His children, it's obvious that an individual attacking true spirituality is as much under attack himself as is the object of his/her fury. Such a person deserves our compassion and help.
We can rise to the recognition of our ability from God, divine Love, to love others unconditionally. We can do this by understanding the Bible's declaration that we're each made in the image and likeness of God (see Gen. 1:26). No one is able to change any aspect of the spiritual identity God has given each of His children. Holding this true, spiritual identity in thought is important. It's the way to love our enemies, as shown by Jesus. It is the way to disarm the carnal mind.
God is Love, the only real Mind and power. Our great defense is the recognition that no one we encounter can be separated from God. The nature of humanity is to know and adore God consciously. No matter what the appearance, that is each and every one's true nature now and forever. There is no real power to rob anyone of the right to be spiritually-minded, because there is nothing that can defy divine Mind's omnipotence. As we see this fact, opportunities will arise to prove and defend our convictions.
On another cold night later that winter, I was again first in line for a cab at the station. As it drew up, I saw a familiar figure at the back of the line. It was that same lawyer. I knew, of course, that he lived near to where I was going, and I went up to him and asked if he would like to share my cab. He gratefully agreed. But this time, he didn't say a word against religion the entire trip. I feel certain that he will ultimately know the joy of being awake to his perfect identity, realizing that he, too, is God's beloved child.