I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.
These words, written by William Blake a couple of centuries ago in "Milton," were incorporated in a hymn titled "Jerusalem," which has inspired many to forsake complacency in their pleasant lands. Today, as people in Jerusalem and elsewhere long for lasting peace in that city, there's still inspiration to be gained from Blake's symbolic Jerusalem and from striving to build it right where we are.
Many Bible accounts of Jerusalem's history and future transcend geography and describe an ideal city. This spiritual city may be considered the reality of all communities where diverse peoples are living together peacefully and earn the praise, "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God" (Ps. 87:3).
There's no doubt that a mental fight is required to have glorious cities anywhere. The fact that this kind of fight - prayer breaking down prejudice, fear, selfishness, hate - can be waged and won is God's promise to humanity. Diligently engaged in, it resolves conflicts and restores battle-scarred cities.
My city, Chicago, went through an upheaval in the 1960s, caused in part by economic inequities and racial injustices. At times there was daily rioting and looting, and then the disruption took a new turn: arson. Many Chicagoans had compassion for those whose frustrations were impelling them to such destructive acts, and they were working to make the city better. Sometimes churches united for prayers for resolution of urban problems. My husband and I participated in such meetings, even though we lived in the suburbs and our small printing business was located in a part of the city that was not, and likely would not be, affected by rioting.
We were extremely busy printing and collating books of architectural specifications. This was by far the largest order we had ever received, and we'd invested a lot in it. We completed the work late one night, and early the next morning we sent the books out to be bound. It wasn't too much later when we learned that the area where the bindery was located was in flames. While the news was bad, we were able to stay calm. The enormity of the city's problems had convinced us earlier that only God could solve them. Our prayers had assured us that He would. In a way, we were building Jerusalem, the city of God, and we felt safe in it. In a few days the bound specification books were returned to us, and we delivered them to the architect.
The challenge today is to "not cease from Mental Fight." The other day, a friend told me that she often sings the hymn "Jerusalem" when she needs strength for the battle. She reminded me that the Academy Award-winning movie "Chariots of Fire" found its name in this hymn with its beautifully haunting musical theme. The film depicts people of different and often conflicting religions as coaches and participants, supporting one another in preparing for and winning Olympic gold.
That kind of animosity-sacrificing commitment is what's needed to build "Jerusalem" in every city. The Bible's book of Revelation speaks of old things passing away and the appearance of a new Jerusalem. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper wrote of this New Jerusalem, "This city of our God has no need of sun or satellite, for Love is the light of it.... Mighty potentates and dynasties will lay down their honors within the heavenly city .... and nothing can enter that city, which 'defileth, ... or maketh a lie' " (pg. 577).
As we continue the mental fight to build this Jerusalem even in pleasant lands, we're also helping the Jerusalem of today's news find its essential nature of love.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor