Living just a short walk from Mars Hill in Athens, I frequently pass by this historically significant spot. This is where Saint Paul spoke to the people of Athens after his dramatic transformation from persecutor of Christians to becoming a Christian himself – preaching and healing in the way of Christ Jesus (see Acts 17).
His conversion did not come from a man-made weapon, nor through the exercise of hypnotism or human oppression. What he experienced was a change in consciousness brought about by the spirit of Christ (see Acts 9:1-22). He explained his spiritual awakening – which came from his knowledge of God – showing how it lifted him above a merely physical sense of life and revealed Christ in him, the manifestation and understanding of Spirit, God: “When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:15, 16).
With this tremendous influx of new spiritual understanding, Paul traveled extensively to spread the teachings of Christ Jesus. His healing works, brought about through his understanding of Christ, and of Christ’s power to heal, confirmed what he preached. And this is how he shared his faith in God with others, that they might also have faith – an example that is helpful today. He shared his faith with the countless people he encountered through love and healing, not coercion or persecution.
Intimidation or acts of violence in the name of God cannot further a true understanding of Him. If God is Love as the Scriptures declare, He would not use violence to move us into loving him. But as Paul discovered, and as many have discovered even in our time, the Christ, the presence and power of divine Love, comes to our receptive thought, bringing us an understanding of God that naturally engenders a full faith in Him and a greater love for others, as we know them to be His children.
Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains this renewal, or change of heart, which the spirit of Christianity brings: “The human affections need to be changed from self to benevolence and love for God and man; changed to having but one God and loving Him supremely, and helping our brother man. This change of heart is essential to Christianity, and will have its effect physically as well as spiritually, healing disease” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” pp. 50-51).
It is this religion of the heart – a heart made pure by divine Love – that moves the world. It is not something anyone can be frightened or coerced into. It must be spiritually sought and divinely impelled by the love of Christ.