Floods of water have come to my corner of Wisconsin and swept away topsoil, a decent harvest, and personal possessions for many of my neighbors. Tragically, the extreme weather has even taken human life. The governor of Wisconsin has declared a state of emergency, authorizing government aid in the form of workers and other resources to help those in need. The president has done the same for hurricane Matthew.
While I have been deeply saddened by the losses, I can’t help but take heart in the outpouring of love and aid expressed by my neighbors here. Everywhere I turn I see good Samaritans in our community. There are people checking on friends and neighbors, offering refuge, or who made the trip to help as the waters rose. I see plenty of neighbors who are not willing to “[pass] by on the other side” (Luke 10:31), but are pitching in to clean, to repair, to comfort, and to reassure. Their loving response has led me to consider a question in the Bible “Who is my neighbour?” which Jesus answers with the instructive story of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37).
Jesus had just been preaching that all of Jewish law and all of the teachings of the prophets could be fulfilled by doing this: loving God, and loving your neighbor as yourself. The question then, “Who is my neighbor?,” sounds to me like a protest: “How can I possibly help everybody?” Jesus’ answer to that question was the story of the good Samaritan, a good-hearted and generous person who stopped to help someone who had just been mugged – as opposed to others in the story, who were outwardly very religious, but made no attempt to offer any help.
As he consistently did, Jesus pointed his questioner to the healing power of divine Love. The first epistle of John explains, “God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect” (4:16, 17, New Living Translation).
Studying Christian Science, which is dedicated to following the Master Christian’s teaching and example, has been widening my sense of love to understand and express more of God’s perfect love. Christian Science emphasizes that God made man in His own spiritual image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26, 27); so, we are made to love and care for one another. Through prayer that leads to humble changes in character, we can recognize ourselves and others as inherently spiritual and valuable, and find God’s powerful and loving influence more evident in our lives. Doing this, we are recognizing our true, spiritual nature that can never be lost, because we can never lose what God has given us.
The practical result? We find ourselves more and more caring, equipped, and able to help others when needed. As the flooding subsided, my prayers led me to help others rather than go on a trip I had planned. A young friend joined me and we helped a family retrieve and clean what was salvageable from the receding waters. They appreciated our clean-up help, especially for the way it had lifted their morale. I saw that it was the healing power of Love that left all of us feeling blessed.
Small examples of love in action like this, and much larger ones, naturally result from learning to identify ourselves as the sons and daughters of God – loved by God and made to be loving. I have appreciated learning the essential rightness and the practicality of identifying myself spiritually through studying the textbook of Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.” Mary Baker Eddy, its author, points us to the healing, spiritual love Jesus exemplified in her essay “Judge Not,” which affirms, “To suppose that human love, guided by the divine Principle, which is Love, is partial, unmerciful, or unjust, indicates misapprehension of the divine Principle and its workings in the human heart” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 290).
Understanding that God is divine Principle, Love, and that we are Love’s offspring, not only makes loving wholeheartedly more attainable; it has a healing effect. Whether we are on the scene or far away, we can each strive to see ourselves and our neighbors in this loving, healing light, which brings blessings in very practical ways.