First, it was reports about child suicide bombers. Now, there's news of an alleged Al Qaeda propaganda tape featuring young boys (see "In Seized Video, Boys Train to Fight in Iraq, U.S. Says," The New York Times, Feb. 7).
For those of us who are continents and oceans away from the fighting, it can be challenging not to feel detached or become apathetic about praying. But when another spate of reports hits that children are involved, apathy no longer seems a compelling excuse. Complacency somehow doesn't fly.
It's true that, at this point, children being indoctrinated or raised as terrorists isn't really news. But there's something about seeing a masked child – perhaps no more than 8 or 9 years old – holding an AK-47 that brings the point home. These children need our prayers.
But where to begin? If this is all these children know, all they've ever been taught, what hope do we have? Who will tell them differently?
Perhaps the answers to these questions center on a "what" rather than a "who." Because there is something that can make a difference. The Bible calls it the light that "shineth in darkness" (see John 1:5). And that light is the Christ.
Jesus provided the best example of the power of Christ to uplift, transform, and regenerate lives. In fact, he was so filled with the Christ-spirit, so conscious of the saving power of God, that he healed even the most intractable cases of human suffering and mental darkness.
In one instance, a father came to Jesus, begging that Jesus heal his lunatic son whom the disciples hadn't been able to help. As the Bible records it, immediately, Jesus "rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour" (Matt. 17:18).
As Jesus' example proves, the power of Christ is not in words. It's the influence of God Himself – God, divine Love, expressing Himself as love. God, divine Life, manifesting Himself as life. God, the Father-Mother, embracing each of His-Her children in an inviolate relationship. This is a relationship that does not, cannot, change – no matter what someone's human history or lineage.
Many centuries later, Mary Baker Eddy identified Christ's peerless power in changing lives for the better. Indeed, she called Christ, "a divine influence ever present in human consciousness and repeating itself" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. xi). And she saw that Christ – not the darkness, not the mesmeric, repetitious claims that say man is vulnerable and impressionable and easily duped – was the true and only message. Christ was the only voice that man – as created by God – could hear and obey. And it was irresistible.
In one poignant case, also involving a child, a neighbor boy who was often willful and disobedient was brought to Mrs. Eddy. He was quite ill, and she healed him. But in seeing this child's nature as good and innocent – as made and maintained by his Father-Mother – Mrs. Eddy didn't just restore his health. From then on, there was also a noticeable change in the boy's behavior (Clifford P. Smith, "Historical Sketches," p. 71). The light that revealed his wholeness also brought out his goodness. This was the Christ in action.
These examples, and others like them, offer reassurance that there is hope for the world's children. They're a reminder that the light of Christ shines brighter than any human influences, and that it compels each of us to leave old or faulty ways of thinking and to see ourselves – and others – the way God does. What these examples also show is that the prayer that affirms the power of Christ is at work does make a difference. That it can embrace all the world's children. And that this prayer leads us to new light, too.