In the previous century, after almost 500 years of Turkish domination, Serbian peasants strove to break the yoke of oppression. Inspired by national pride, George Petrovic in 1804, and Milos Obrenovic in 1815, led revolts that loosened the iron grip of the Ottoman Empire. Final independence for Serbia came in 1878, after Russia defeated Turkey. Time had not extinguished the Serbian desire for nationhood.
National pride is powerful. Perhaps what is happening in Serbia today is in some ways a continuation of that fierce patriotism. Yet the motivation of one nation to take armed action, disenfranchising and excluding others, takes a toll. Sadly, throughout history, victory through violence has often resulted in subsequent defeat through violence. The humiliated eventually become reinvigorated.
Does God fight on one side against another? Early books of the Bible conceptualize God as a national deity with partisan power. Later on, God is seen more and more as universal. Unconfined to a single race or nationality, He blesses all who turn to Him for help. As one spiritual seer observed, "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him" (Rom. 10:12).
The power of God is present to save Serb and Albanian, foreign soldier and native son. No one is excluded from God's love. Every individual has the right to seek and find safety through God's inspiration. When fear is the strongest, God is the closest. Even someone who isn't certain of God's existence can be blessed by turning to Him for help.
Jesus taught that God is Love and embraces all nationalities equally; that all who seek God's protection find it. He did not exclude anyone from his compassion. Male and female, Gentile and Jew, were healed. Their lives were blessed and saved. Jesus respected his Jewish heritage. He took part in Jewish traditions, yet he never allowed himself to be limited by prevalent ethnic or national prejudice.
When a Roman soldier asked him to heal a beloved friend, Jesus did. Actually, he praised the Roman for his faith: "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (Matt. 8:10). He healed a Canaanite girl (see Matt. 15:21-28). When his disciples sought revenge on a Samaritan village, Jesus "turned, and rebuked them." He said: "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them" (Luke 9:55, 56).
What all this demonstrated was far above human pride or nationalism. God's leadership leads to life, not death; to Love, not hate. By conquering within ourselves the enemies of selfishness and hatred, we will be contributing to the defeat of whatever opposes genuine progress for any nation. Progress is constructive, not destructive. The great wrong in the conflict is the conviction that the end justifies the means. This enemy attacks all sides. It undermines good intentions and silences moral sensibility.
The personal concept of enemies must eventually be defeated. The word enemy implies hostile, powerful opposition. To hold in one's consciousness the thought that some group is an enemy is really to empower another against oneself. The founder of this newspaper wrote from experience, "Love your enemies, or you will not lose them; and if you love them, you will help to reform them" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Miscellaneous Writings," pgs. 210-211).
Love is supreme over hate. That is why we are empowered when we love. If we have any enemies at all, they are mental ones: pride and fear. These we can conquer in our own thoughts - by removing revenge, hatred, and fear from our consciousness. It is wise to remove what opposes the ability to hear God speak. Since safety comes from God rather than from men, it is prudent to listen for His voice. As the enemies of thought are arrested, men and women are freed to find their way to safety and progress.
The power of Love is supreme in authority, and can wisely govern the motives and actions of individuals in every nation. The reforming, transforming power of divine Love can touch everyone.