"Jihadis in New Jersey?" a recent article in this newspaper, captured my full attention.
I'm just minutes away from where some of the men live who were arrested for allegedly plotting to kill at least 100 soldiers at Fort Dix in April. Although the plot was uncovered, authorities making the arrest believe that the threat of home-grown terrorist cells, not connected to but inspired by Al Qaeda, is a very real one.
Although I think of myself as praying consistently about terrorism, I didn't realize until reading the article and feeling the threat in my own backyard how much more I can do. So now I'm praying in a fresh way.
The experience of a man in the Bible's New Testament, Ananias, is helping me. He also had to pray about terrorism when a well-known terrorist, Saul, arrived in his town.
God asked Ananias to heal Saul of blindness. Initially, Ananias was scared and understandably hesitant. He was well aware of Saul's reputation of terrorizing Christians and tried to inform God of this bad history.
Instead of judging Saul's past behavior, God replied, "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake" (Acts 9:15, 16).
Without questioning God again, Ananias accepted this new view of Saul, which undoubtedly quelled his fear. He immediately went to him, greeting him as "Brother Saul," and healed him. Saul, later known as the Apostle Paul, totally reformed, and became one of the greatest Christian missionaries, completely reversing his history.
What happened in Ananias's conversation with God is revealing. Ananias was initially judging Saul by his human record. But God was viewing him according to his spiritual record – "He is a chosen vessel … who will do great things."
There was no rehearsal of Saul's mistakes, only recognition of the mission he would fulfill for God. God was bearing witness to Saul's true spiritual nature and identity, which completely washed away the past record. This new view of Saul destroyed Ananias's fear. He not only gained courage and strength to go to Saul, but also saw him as a brother – not someone to fear, but someone to love.
In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy explained how this spiritual view heals: "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick" (pp. 476-477).
Like Ananias, I have a choice to make: to either live in fear of a terrorist's record or bear witness to "God's own likeness."
This may seem like a far stretch. But Ananias showed that only by a radical change of thought is radical behavior reformed.
Each of God's children is dearly loved and precious. Our Father-Mother God makes no distinctions. This impartial love penetrates deep into the heart, dissolving fear, hatred, and self-will. It totally governs the human experience, giving new views, new motives, and new affections. I think this is what happened to Ananias and Paul. Divine Love, God, gave them a new view of themselves and their fellow man, which ultimately brought healing and rehabilitation.
So, like Ananias, I'm going to try to stop judging the mortal scene and lift my view to what God sees as the spiritual record. And the world may be blessed with one more peacemaker. And what could that do for New Jersey? What we do as individuals naturally affects our home, workplace, and community. I'm confident it will take one more stone out of the bucket of hate and fear and shift the balance toward brotherhood and trust.