Reports Thursday of terrorist bombings in London turn many immediately to prayer and open people's hearts in compassion to everyone there. As I turned in prayer myself, this strong declaration from the book of Isaiah came immediately to thought: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper" (54:17).
Terrorists believe that people will cower before evil, but in both the short and long term, there is evidence of the fruitlessness of such actions. When I think back to my own experience in New York City, I am all too often reminded of the destruction and loss of life, but when that tries to settle into my thought, it is overwhelmed by the stronger memories of the compassion and strength, the sacrifice and humanity, that filled the city during those difficult days and months after 9/11.
The Apostle Paul urges that we "be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). It sounds like good counsel, but the question is, How? How does one overcome evil with good? The first step that Paul gives is clear. Be not overcome. Don't be mesmerized by the reports of the attack; don't become engulfed with anger. Don't let despair or helplessness take over.
Still, the question comes, How? I find that the moment I turn to God, when I seek God's presence and acknowledge God's presence, I am on a path that frees me from the grip of evil or fear or despair.
I've never thought of God as something distant or fearsome. From my youngest years, I have been drawn to the Bible's teaching that God is Love. I've responded to its references to God's mothering care, to divine Love's defense of us all. I've been drawn to its references to God's fathering, to the idea of God as Almighty and ever present.
So when I turned to these ideas again today, I found that this counteracts the sense of fear, or the grief that the people of London, as the people of Madrid, or the schoolchildren of Beslan, Russia, or the people of Baghdad, are being dragged through the effects of terrorism once again.
I'm not saying it cools my heart, not one bit. I'm saying that the natural outpouring of compassion that we all feel at times like this is joined by an ever stronger sense that God is on the scene; that the power of God is active in our lives.
We are not left in darkness. A sense of God's presence with us, with all the people of London, brings light, a healing and guiding light. We don't wander helplessly; instead we discover a divine presence and power at work in ourselves and in our entire community.
The power of God's presence works in many ways. First, it operates to expose evil and evil intentions so that they can be brought to an end. Second, it works immediately to restore people's lives, it works to awaken them to the unseverable link that every one of us has with divine Love, with good. And it works to bring evidence of justice into the lives of all, a justice which destroys the very roots of terrorism.
"Be not overcome of evil," we are counseled. How? By overcoming every dark thought that tries to overwhelm us with a living sense of the presence and ongoing authority of God at work in this place, at this time. Nothing can obscure or bomb out of existence this divine force. As we acknowledge this deeply, our lives respond to it.
As far back as 1888, the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, set the tone. In a response to adversity she wrote: "No evidence before the material senses can close my eyes to the scientific proof that God, good, is supreme. Though clouds are round about Him, the divine justice and judgment are enthroned. Love is especially near in times of hate, and never so near as when one can be just amid lawlessness, and render good for evil" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 277).
To me, the spirit of her remarks embodies Paul's counsel. It was essential in 60 AD. It was a sure guide in 1888. It is proven counsel in 2005. "God, good, is supreme." Supreme. With that as our guide, all of us can go forward with an assurance of the ultimate triumph of good over evil.