“I’m not preparing for war. I’m preparing for peace,” said Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, as he announced a 16-member Ferguson Commission (see “Missouri Governor Announces Members of Ferguson Commission,” The New York Times). It is charged with the task of hearing the local residents’ concerns about issues that have led to racial violence and recommending possible solutions.
A lot has happened since Mr. Nixon’s statement in November, but his words about preparing for peace, not war, resonated with me, along with the words of New York Congressman Joseph Crowley, who saw in the wake of Eric Garner’s death “an opportunity here in this tragedy to continue this conversation and turn it ... into action and change” (see “Amid anger over Eric Garner, a unique moment for change in NYPD,” CSMonitor.com).
I lived in New York City during a time of riots in the 1960s and ’70s, and I long to see preparations for peace and progress, instead of more violence. As anger has erupted into violent riots over the Garner case in Staten Island, N.Y., and the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, many peaceful protests have also emerged.
These efforts at peaceful change give me hope that solutions can be found without further destructive behavior. For me, turning to God as the author of peace strengthens my faith in being able to help move people’s thoughts in the direction of progress. In praying for peace and turning those prayers into deeds, the best example to follow is Christ Jesus. He encountered people of various nationalities, backgrounds, and attitudes, and his spiritual understanding of God’s love for all His children enabled him to heal them.
Jesus taught the importance of not just loving our friends and family but loving our neighbors – including those whose racial or cultural background is different from ours (see Matthew 22:39). His thoughts and teaching were transforming. Zacchaeus, a dishonest tax collector, was so touched by Jesus’ words and Jesus’ spiritual perception of him as a child of God that he vowed to give up his dishonest ways and give to the poor (see Luke 19:2-10). The healing Christ-message that Jesus brought to individuals altered their perception of what was right and what was powerful. He gave them a vision of God’s love, which changed their lives.
In her textbook on Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “The power of God brings deliverance to the captive. No power can withstand divine Love.” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 224).
God, divine Love, is with us all today, inspiring kinder, more just thoughts and actions in those who are amenable in any degree to the influence of divine Love. It can influence where we may not think it could. The more we understand divine Love’s all-inclusive nature, the more we can see all people as God’s children. Seeing and loving those around us correctly – as God-made and reflective of His loving nature – dissolves bias, fear, past distrust, and educated hatred. It enables us to correct the misconceptions we may have had about those who differ from us.
As our hearts become more open to loving instead of hating, we will be walking the road that Christ Jesus pointed out in his teachings. He said, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This is the opportunity we have now: To love and see our fellow men and women as God’s sons and daughters. This will give us the understanding to help defang the serpent of hate and to truly see eye to eye.
The citizens of affected communities in Missouri, Ohio, and New York can work to counteract the events in their areas and the hatred those events have engendered. Each of us can contribute to that work through our prayerful conviction that God, good, does govern, and God’s influence in human hearts can inspire leaders and citizens with intelligent decisions and good motives. Love and peace can prevail, as more of us turn to God with all our hearts.
This is a time of year when many people are thinking about and longing for peace on earth. Why can’t it begin in Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York City? My trust is that through the influence of divine Love in people’s hearts, those hopes will be fulfilled.