Praying about the Iran deal and the need for diplomacy

A Christian Science perspective: Are we choosing diplomacy over conflict in our own lives?

The highly contested and debated deal to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear arms program will be formally adopted October 19. The Monitor’s cover story this week discusses the Iran deal in depth.

Delaware’s Senator Chris Coons’s vote in favor of the deal helped it to pass in Congress. Coons, like many, wrestled with his decision. In a speech explaining his ultimate vote, Coons referenced scripture. From Genesis to Isaiah, many Bible stories encourage the pursuit of “diplomacy before resorting to conflict,” he said. “My support of this agreement heeds that advice” (“Why Democrats are backing nuclear deal, despite distrust of Iran,” CSMonitor.com).

Wherever individuals stand on this issue, and whatever the agreement’s pros or cons, it prompts an important question for all of us: Are we choosing diplomacy over conflict in our own lives? At times like this, when sides become polarized and issues spill into heated debates, we might do well to heed this scriptural advice: “If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses” (Deuteronomy 17:8, New King James Version).

Controversies of any kind are truly a call for prayer, which brings us to a place, or state of thought, that recognizes God’s harmonious control. Prayer that appeals to God, who is good, as the one and only power in our lives, tends to lead to a settled calm, rather than confusion. We can each choose to become unpolarized in our own thought by seeking and following God’s direction and trusting His government. “And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? ... Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (I Peter 3:13, 15, New King James Version).

Rather than becoming embroiled in controversy, or taking sides, it’s best to dedicate our hearts to God, where we find hope. Christ Jesus gave us reason enough to hope. He said the kingdom of heaven is within each one of us (see Luke 17:21). The Monitor’s founder and the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, described heaven as “not a locality, but a divine state of Mind ...” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 291). It is not a place for the privileged few, but a choice we each make to accept God’s wise and harmonious government of our thoughts and decisions.

Several years ago, when I was in a decision-making role, I came head to head with another individual who opposed what I felt was a reasonable decision. As I prayed for direction, the Bible verse “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him;” (Matthew 5:25) came quietly to my thought. Rather than think I was being asked to bow to another’s will, I took this to mean that kind, harmonious communication was the only side I ever needed to take.

I felt directed to agree with “my adversary’s” position, which surprised this individual, who then admitted to being difficult. From then on, our communication together was harmonious. By siding with God, good, all willfulness on either side had been dissolved, and we soon reached a mutually agreeable decision.

I’ve always been grateful for the lesson I learned: Nothing is ever too important to abandon a heavenly state of mind. That’s diplomacy at its best. The same applies to hot spots and decisions regarding our global community. The world needs our prayers for diplomacy, not more willful conflict.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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