Bridging divides

A Christian Science perspective.

When the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake hit in 2004, it flooded Indonesia and other countries with 100-foot tsunami waves in one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. More recently, when monsoon rains hit and flooded Pakistan, water, at one point, covered 20 percent of the country’s total land area. In some ways, the floods of humanitarian aid that poured in overmatched the floods of water. It may be only a slight overstatement to say that, in these cases, as well as others like them, the whole human race got caught up in the helping, the hoping, and the praying for relief to get there in time.

What is it that triggers this kind of coming together, as if humanity were a single, united family? Yes, it involves empathy and sympathy and human compassion. But is something even more foundational at the core of humanity’s outpouring of care? Perhaps it's a divine influence, the Christ-spirit, deep within each human heart, that produces such a response. This Spirit, the spirit of Love, unity, and of brotherhood and sisterhood, is native to each individual on this planet. It is inborn to every one of us. That includes Christian and non-Christian alike. And that helps explain the power with which such worldwide outpourings of care can impact a scene in need.

Of course, there’s another side to the story. Plenty of other instances, desperately in need of that spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood and of unity, remain obstinately resistant to the bridging of divides, to the “in-pouring” of aid, to the promise of healing. Two scenes come to mind: the mutual bitterness and distrust sometimes found in American politics, and the intractable nature of the negotiations for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. The stubborn hostility woven through these conflicts repeats itself in hot spots around the globe. Could that really trump the healing, bridge-building power of the Christ? Could it kill off the Spirit of mutual love among God’s children?

It could not. One of Jesus’ best-loved parables is the parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30–37). Jesus offers this short story in answer to the question, Who is my neighbor? The Master tells of a man fallen into harm’s way, robbed and beaten. Three potential rescuers come across him. The first two choose noninvolvement, and leave him unaided. The third, a Samaritan, “had compassion on him,” cared for him, and left him in the good hands of a local innkeeper. Is this innkeeper the least noticed character of the parable? Possibly. But his story, within the larger story of the Samaritan, conveys a useful point. Because, while the innkeeper forwards healing and true neighborliness, he is not bankrupted in the process. He, too, is provided for. Is the parable telling us that to express Christly love in tangible and practical ways does not deplete us? Striving to heal divides does not drain us? If so, it’s a healing answer to what is sometimes called “compassion fatigue.” No one has to feel burned out by their efforts to love and care for their neighbors. Everyone can continue their endeavors to reach across political or cultural divides and forward unity, forward healing.

The healing, harmonizing, unifying influence of the Christ cannot be forever walled off. Hostility isn’t an option. Neither is noninvolvement. Christ’s world-altering power is perpetually at work, ending bitterness, bridging divides, mending rifts, caring for the downtrodden, one heart at a time.

Mary Baker Eddy committed her life not just to heeding the Master’s words, but also to emulating his healing works. She saw this as a real possibility, a natural thing for caring people to do, including those without expertise in diplomacy. In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she referred to the Master’s works: “Now, as then, these mighty works are not supernatural, but supremely natural. They are the sign of Immanuel, or ‘God with us,” – a divine influence ever present in human consciousness and repeating itself, coming now as was promised aforetime,

To preach deliverance to the captives [of sense],
And recovering of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty them that are bruised” (p. xi).

As one bruising confrontation after another erupts on this planet, it is heartening – and more than that, it is truly transforming – to realize the divine influence of the Christ is present right now, is in operation right now. The healing touch of the Christ extends not just to those in need. It extends, as it did that long-ago time during the first telling of the Good Samaritan parable, to those striving to meet the need. The promise of the healing Christ will never cease. Christ’s divine influence truly is “ever present in human consciousness.” Realize this in prayer, and it can’t help but advance the healing of wounds and the bridging of divides.

From an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.

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