In my neighborhood, I’m sometimes awakened by raised voices. Two guys in the alley, shouting in anger over some perceived offense. Half a world away, militants take umbrage at nations that hold differing religious views, or whose politics and policies they find offensive.
How do we respond when we feel slighted, misunderstood, insulted, or abused? As I’ve prayed about peace this December, I’ve come to appreciate even more deeply Christ Jesus’ example of unshakable spiritual poise. What was it that allowed Jesus to stay above the insults hurled his way, to be unmoved by those who so misunderstood his mission that they conspired to kill him? It’s the same conviction that allows everyone, the world over, to feel profound and lasting peace: the understanding that each individual’s identity and purpose are safe and whole, because they are God-created and God-maintained.
Christ Jesus’ life demonstrated this fact. He saw in each person he encountered the perfection and beauty that remained untouched by material circumstances. This understanding of the real man – as Spirit-created and therefore spiritual – resulted in healings of everything from morality issues to mental illness to death. You might say that Jesus didn’t just restore minds and bodies, but that his clear spiritual perception also brought to light the peace that comes from knowing ourselves as God’s image and likeness.
Jesus was quick to rebuke anything that would claim to stand in the way of this peace – for others and for himself. He didn’t waste time in a state of reaction. He stood firmly on the side of man’s reflected wholeness. This brought decisive results, as in the case of the synagogue ruler’s daughter, who had died. When Jesus reached the ruler’s house, the chaos and commotion over her death probably seemed overwhelming. But rather than getting swept up in it, Jesus “put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightaway” (Luke 8:54, 55).
This unshakeable peace also allowed Jesus to rise from his own grave. His complete conviction that no person or power of this world could separate him from his spiritual identity and mission enabled him to demonstrate for all mankind that good always triumphs. That divine Life, our very Life, reigns supreme.
Are we willing to take this precious example with us into the petty annoyances – or terrible offenses – of our day? Not just for our own sake, but for the sake of the whole world? The power of doing so hit home for me recently when I received a work-related message that felt horribly offensive. Although this offense was nothing compared to what Jesus endured, my prayers came to the rescue in the form of Jesus’ own words at the crucifixion: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
No, Jesus’ accusers didn’t know what they were doing. They had no idea that they had no power to hurt him; no power to disturb his God-given peace; no power to destroy his God-derived individuality. I love the way the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, explained this in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Because of the wondrous glory which God bestowed on His anointed, temptation, sin, sickness, and death had no terror for Jesus. Let men think they had killed the body! Afterwards he would show it to them unchanged” (p. 42).
In my prayer for the offender, I felt the peace that comes from understanding that we, too, shine forever with our own individual glory as God’s expression. The offense and hurt drained away. I knew, in a way I hadn’t known before, that what God had created me to be could never be touched by another person’s hatred. And that my purpose continued uninterrupted and unchallenged – that everyone’s does.
Knowing and affirming our spiritual identity, our Christliness, instills in us a lasting peace that doesn’t just transform our individual lives. This correct view of the nature of man also enables us to put down offense and fearful reaction. That’s the peace the world yearns for, and we can witness its dawn – today.