The best gift ever

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

It wasn't on a wish list. But, like any gift from someone who knows and loves the recipient, it was a perfect match. The gift I'm talking about is probably the first ever given. It's what God has bestowed on His creation, His sons and daughters: dominion (see Gen. 1:26).

Today, the term "dominion" can have a bad rap. It's been interpreted as harsh or unfeeling personal control over other people, over animals, or over the environment. But real dominion, flowing as it does from an all-loving God, is benevolent, compassionate, and tender. It is power that blesses all it touches.

From early stories of Moses, David, and Daniel up to the present, prayerful men and women have used spiritual power to heal and save. In the Scriptures alone, the list of problems overcome is impressive: hunger, poverty, homelessness, slavery, wrongdoing, political intrigue, imminent dangers, life-threatening ailments, mental illness, death. Viewed as a whole, this record of dominion over adversity is encouraging, even galvanizing, especially when we face challenges in our own lives.

Can we hope to replicate this kind of healing? Absolutely. For how-to instructions in wielding spiritual strength, nothing equals Jesus' counsel. For example: "With God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26); "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21); "These signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; … they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16:17, 18). Jesus confirmed his words by conquering every challenge to his divinely bestowed ability to heal.

But Jesus' life added up to so much more than a series of miracles with accompanying commentary. His God-impelled mission was to make clear that dominion is ours to use for good – that it's the practical proof of God's goodness and ever-presence in our lives.

Two thousand years after Jesus, theological student and writer Mary Baker Eddy explained in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" just how universal Jesus' teachings are: "His mission was both individual and collective. He did life's work aright not only in justice to himself, but in mercy to mortals, – to show them how to do theirs, but not to do it for them nor to relieve them of a single responsibility" (p. 18).

What is this work Jesus showed us how to do? Here's an example. Years ago, while hurrying to a job interview, I tripped and fell on the subway stairs in New York City. My ankle was hurt and began to swell. I was unable to move easily through the crowds, so I limped back home.

Knowing something of Jesus' teachings, I realized I had a choice. I could accept the accident and its effects and expect to be partially incapacitated for some time. Or I could look to Jesus' example, and heal my ankle. My choice was to rely exclusively on God's care. There was really no contest – to me, dominion was a promise that my Godlikeness could be seen as uninterrupted and sure.

It took some Christly courage to turn away from the way my ankle looked and felt. But prayer brought the confidence to look to a spiritual truth instead – in this case, some arresting words from Science and Health: "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all" (p. 468). As I continued this line of spiritual reasoning, an alarming lump on the side of my foot deflated and vanished before my eyes. I stood up and returned to the subway, making my interview on time.

As in Jesus' day, dominion is seen in the overcoming of mortal limitations, large or small. It's God's embracing power, available to us to destroy whatever is unlike Him. Here's how the Psalmist put it: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?… Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet" (8:4, 6).

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