Like many others, I have been praying about the recent attacks in Brussels and Lahore, Pakistan. This statement from Christ Jesus has helped me cut through the fear that would paralyze us or keep us from moving forward. It is a command that he asked his disciples to follow unconditionally: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).
Jesus wasn’t talking about naive love that ignores dangerous situations. He was well aware of his enemies’ desire to kill him. He also knew that love – a quality of divine Love, God – and not hatred was the true healing power, and he was willing to trust his life to it.
He understood that only God’s love could eliminate the fear and ignorance that lead to hatred. As the Bible puts it, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment” (I John 4:18).
Even if at first we can’t feel perfect love as Jesus did, we still can pray to find compassion – not only for the victims of terror but for individuals who appear to be full of hatred.
My study of Christian Science has shown me that no one is truly born to hate. Hatred, by its very nature, is a destroyer. In reality, each of us is actually the child of God, divine Love. With this understanding, our prayers can insist that each individual is really made to love – whatever he or she may have been led to believe. In prayer, we can insist that each individual is able to perceive the reality of God’s love for them and for others – that hatred has no part of their being, even when they are being told that it is useful to support their cause.
To rise above destructive thinking and bring healing, we must insist on the power of love and not give in to fear or hate. It is what Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, discusses in this powerful statement: “Persecution is the weakness of tyrants engendered by their fear, and love will cast it out. Continue steadfast in love and good works” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 191).
Keeping with ideas similar to these is what helped me in my own experience in Northern Ireland during a time when bombings were not uncommon because of the political and religious strife in those days. I prayed earnestly for my own safety and for the protection of the people around me.
My prayer for those on both sides of the conflict was an acknowledgment of God’s love for all of His children. It was also firmly based in the understanding that God is the only real Mind, the source of all intelligence and intelligent action. For me, this meant that I would be guided to act with wisdom and love, and that I could not be misled into doing anything that would harm others or myself.
These and other prayer-based thoughts protected me at the time and aided my prayers for that country in the years that followed.
In that experience, it was clear to me that fear, which may darken our thoughts, may make us mistrust those who mean us no harm. Fear would divide people into factions, overshadow even the tiniest elements of honesty, and encourage ignorance. It is most important that when we pray, we address fear and overcome it.
Although God’s love may not be felt by all sides in a conflict, its healing influence begins with one person refusing to be fearful of someone seen as an “other” – or with those of us outside the conflict affirming that God, Love, is present and able to guide those in the afflicted areas from terror into harmony and peace. No matter where we are, persisting with good works and insisting on love will help us shed light on the darkness of fear. Each of us can help make a difference.