The choice to love

A Christian Science perspective: Countering hostility with divine Love.

Years ago, I received an angry e-mail from an acquaintance who was furious with me for some actions I had taken. He assaulted my character, slandered my record, attacked my religion, and threatened to exact ugly revenge if I didn’t retract my decision and obey his demands.

He had a reputation for treating other people this way, but I had never faced this myself. I considered his points and still felt my course of action had been correct. But I was crestfallen and taken aback by this viciousness and malice.

I have often found that turning to God in prayer brings blessings, even in difficult situations, and I knew I had a choice to make. I could either fear this individual and dread his threats as inevitable, or choose to love him. After hours of wrestling with pride, ego, and fear, I chose love.

When we’re accused or attacked by another, it can be tempting to react with anger, list grievances, and seek revenge. But there’s a better choice. Jesus Christ taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

This instruction for dealing with enemies is not an admonition to ignore abuse or pretend it didn’t happen. It’s not naive or blind. It’s a solid plan to disarm hate with love, as light displaces darkness.

Jesus wasn’t just talking about a human sense of love, but of expressing the love of God, who is divine Love. Jesus understood that the underlying culprit in arenas of conflict is not a person, place, or thing, but evil states of mind – hatred, jealousy, envy, greed, lust, malice, selfishness, and the like. As the book of Hebrews in the Bible says in reference to Jesus, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (1:9, New Revised Standard Version). Jesus had pointed words for the evil he detected in the hearts of his enemies, but he did not let their hatred become his hatred. He mastered it in his own consciousness by understanding its powerlessness in the face of divine Love expressed; accordingly, he responded with love designed to nullify evil.

The Bible says, “God is love” (I John 4:16). In Christian Science, the love of God, which defeats sin and reforms humanity, is understood to be more than a gesture of goodwill. Love, understood in its highest sense, is God. Love, as God, is absolute power. Love is might. Love is strength. To side with divine Love is to side with the Almighty, the Ruler over the universe, who holds all of His spiritual children, including each of us, in perfect harmony.

To love one’s enemies is like showering water over a fire. The more you pour on the flames, the sooner the fire is extinguished. And sometimes it takes a deluge to douse a blaze! But every drop helps. And this kind of love does bless the person we may think is our enemy, because the real enemy is hate, not a person.

In the case of the acquaintance who had sent me the hostile e-mail, there was no further communication between the two of us, but I had peace in my heart toward this man, and I was grateful to see that none of his threats came to fruition. And I am a better person for having learned how to love more through gaining a deeper sense of God as Love, and to know that everyone is truly a loved child of God.

Divine Love, God, upholds all that is good and true and lifts thought to a better place. The discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, “Love is the liberator” ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 225). God is the never-ending source of love we can trust to help us extinguish hatred, fear, and misunderstanding. As children of God, we all have the capacity to love, and that capacity can be demonstrated in loving those who seem to oppose us. We can refuse to let misguided intentions become our undoing. In the face of verbal assault, we are not helpless. We can take prayerful action to counter malice and to feel and experience more of divine Love’s presence, right where we are.

This article was adapted from an article in the Aug. 10, 2015, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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