There’s an old saying, “Lord, let my words be sweet today, because tomorrow I may have to eat them.” This is good advice, especially in the age of the Internet, where one’s words can travel almost as fast as thought. And those words can stir dramatic, and sometimes dangerous, actions.
When Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida, organized a Quran burning in March, the result was a violent chain reaction. After four days of protests in Afghanistan, at least 22 people died, including seven United Nations workers. And Afghanistan wasn’t the only country affected by his actions.
Nor is Mr. Jones alone in his views of Islam. Fear and hatred of Muslims have been growing in the United States and Europe, fed by Internet rumors and an inability to separate political acts from religious beliefs. Similarly, fear and hatred of Christians among Muslims, especially those in the Middle East, have been fanned by those wishing to make political hay out of it. The great need is to defang this lying serpent of hatred and ignorance by lifting thought to the larger family of God, in which material history with its arguments of unhealed hatreds, ignorance, cruelty – its reliance on political manipulation, and the whole host of mortal thought – has no place. These arguments are destructive to all people of faith and keep humanity from working together to bless a world in need of healing.
Proving our unity as the family of God will take moral and spiritual courage on the part of all parties – not just Christians and Muslims but Jews and others as well. Understanding that God’s love extends to all people, even those whose actions one may despise, helps reinforce this point and lift thought to prayer and compassion.
The temptation to use division for political gain or even just as a side comment in a conversation can be alluring. Yet the question that can offset the temptation is: “Would I say this about my brother or sister in the family of God?” Silently asking this question when one is reading the news or listening to others helps one turn thought in a more healing direction.
The Bible provides many models for this shift in thought. Perhaps the greatest is the man now known as Paul, who was at first violently opposed to Christians. His transformation on the road to Damascus shows the tremendous power of the Christ, of God’s love for His men and women, and the good that they can do when they are set right.
Following his transformation, Paul traveled widely throughout the Roman world. In the midst of this great work, he encountered people of other beliefs and advised young Christian churches on how to deal with such situations. While his writings are blunt at times, he followed Jesus’ teachings, and never advised hatred and annihilation as solutions. Instead, he wrote, “Love is patient, love is kind.... Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.... Love never fails” (I Cor. 13:4, 6, 8, New International Version).
In an age when patience seems in short supply, the willingness to persist in prayer may not always be present. Yet this persistence in seeing what is true – namely, that the one God is governing all people all the time – sustained Paul through many trials. Even at the end of his life, his conviction of this truth was unshaken. He strove to keep his thoughts on the one God, who unites all people.
Maintaining this vision in our families, communities, churches, and other places of worship is an important spiritual discipline for healing the larger conditions within our countries and ultimately the world. “Love Your Enemies,” an essay in Mary Baker Eddy’s “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” states: “Love metes not out human justice, but divine mercy.... We must love our enemies in all the manifestations wherein and whereby we love our friends; must even try not to expose their faults, but to do them good whenever opportunity occurs” (p. 11). In Mrs. Eddy’s work as discoverer and founder of Christian Science, she had ample opportunities to practice this truth, and she did it fearlessly and well.
The divine law of Love that she proved can be applied by all people, not just Christians, and it can heal any aspect of human experience. It is the law that holds the earth in its orbit, and yet tenderly guides the lost child home. Those who are Eddy’s followers are designed to be healers in their own lives and in the world. Their spiritual vision and love can offset whatever divides humanity into opposing camps. By resisting the temptation to hate, they help to dethrone the role of hatred in the world. By insisting on the unfailing power of divine Love, they join Christ in saving it.
Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.
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