Years ago as a graduate student I did a study of the relative effectiveness of violent and nonviolent means in the efforts of two Asian colonies to gain independence from their European rulers after World War II. One colony never resorted to violence, and independence was obtained after two years of negotiations. In the other colony, there were repeated outbreaks of violence from both sides over a four-year period, with no victory for either side. Eventually the colony achieved independence, but it wasn’t through violence; independence was gained through the political support from other countries and United Nations-sponsored negotiations – a nonviolent, peaceful approach. As I thought about this study recently, it spoke to me of how a peaceful approach to disagreements and our efforts to side with what is right has the support of the law of God – the law of good – which impels and accelerates progress.
We may never face violence in our individual lives at the level of warfare or physical conflict, but we all at times may be faced with violent thoughts – thoughts of hatred, malice, or ill will. Violent thoughts and words can be harmful and destructive to a friendship, a marriage, a family. And entertaining violent thoughts certainly doesn’t contribute in a positive way to the world. Are we diligent in rejecting such thoughts, thoughts which, if indulged, block divinely impelled progress, harmony, and spiritual growth?
In the Bible, Christ Jesus is recorded as teaching his followers what has become known as the golden rule. It instructs us all to treat others the way we’d like to be treated (see Matthew 7:12). That could include speaking to others the way we’d like others to speak to us, and thinking about others the way we’d like others to think about us. Obeying the golden rule, therefore, can be seen as a protection from the temptation to entertain harmful, violent thoughts or speak angry, violent words.
In urging humanity’s practice of the golden rule, Jesus was not asking us to do something we’re not capable of doing. In fact, Jesus’ life mission brought to light that man is the child of God – made in God’s image – and thus capable of fulfilling divine demands. When we acknowledge that we are all God’s spiritual offspring, we discover that it’s natural for us to think, speak, and act with genuine kindness and love toward each other.
Jesus also told his followers: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, 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 5:43, 44). This is God’s remedy for violence of any degree: to let His love for all His children, including ourselves and our fellow man, so fill our hearts with genuine love for one another that the possibility of violence – whether it is a thought, a word, or an act – retreats like darkness before oncoming light.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of Christian Science, loved Christ Jesus’ teachings. She knew that following his example not only blesses one’s own life, but is also the most effective and powerful way to contribute to healing the world. She advised the members of her church to “strive to promote the welfare of all mankind by demonstrating the rules of divine Love” (“Manual of The Mother Church,” p. 45). Jesus, his disciples, and his followers down through the centuries have proved that living in accord with God, divine Love, certainly does “promote the welfare of all mankind.”
From schoolyard bullying to warfare between nations, religions, or ideologies, violence is disruptive to individual lives, neighborhoods, cities, and countries. And yet, every one of us can play a part in eliminating violence in the world by starting with our own thinking. Through prayer and obedience to the golden rule, thought is purified by the influence of divine Love. Such prayer certainly can uplift the atmosphere of thought in the world.
Does the idea of peace in our world seem beyond reach? Can individual prayers make a difference? When our own lives are sufficiently reflecting “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), we can be sure that our prayers for peace will make a difference. They will bless our homes and neighborhoods, and the wider world as well. Peace for mankind is more than just a wish. It’s something we can all participate in.