These words from a poem by Robert Burns, “Man’s inhumanity to man / Makes countless thousands mourn,” describe how hearts everywhere felt when they heard the news in July of a group of teens who taunted and laughed as they watched a man drown, doing nothing to help.
My heartbreak over this was also a wake-up call to ask myself, “What more can I do to help stop such brutal insensitivity?” Turning to God for insight, I recalled Christ Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). In this parable, a Jewish man was traveling along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked and left to die. First a priest and then a Levite (an individual who also had priestly duties) passed by without helping the man, who had been beaten and stripped of his clothing. The Jews were enemies with the neighboring Samaritans, yet it was a Samaritan who eventually stopped and took the injured man to an inn and paid for the man’s care. At another point in the Bible Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12), and this parable of the good Samaritan clearly illustrates how such love looks in practice.
I had my answer: To truly help counter the hate and brutality in the world, I needed to be more unwavering in my commitment to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and love as he taught. Jesus showed his deep love for others in countless ways. He healed sickness and disease, compassionately fed the hungry who’d come by the thousands to listen to him preach, and he was ever ready to forgive. What is it that enabled Jesus to love despite the heinous treatment he witnessed against others and that was directed at him? His works point to the profound understanding he had of God as divine Love itself, infinitely more powerful than all the hatred he encountered. It’s also apparent that Jesus had a higher perception of each individual’s actual nature as not the source of anything unlovable or unloving but as the very image of Love, of pure divine Spirit.
Jesus’ command to love, then, was not to ignore or excuse that which is inexcusable, but to recognize man’s God-derived, Christlike nature – to love it, to hold and be true to it, regardless of appearances to the contrary. As can be seen in the many healing accounts that are in the Gospels, this spiritual recognition of man’s true identity has the power to reform others.
Though we may fall short of this consistent love at times, we all have the inherent ability as children of God to love in this way. We have the God-given ability to both discern the true nature of others and to adhere, through prayer, to this view. As doing this proves to have an uplifting, healing effect in our own encounters, it becomes logical to expect that a clear perception of Christlike love can also bring a healing touch to humanity as a whole as we pray to see through cruel indifference, prejudice, and terrorizing brutality to man’s inherent goodness.
The founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy – who faced much injustice in her life – once wrote: “I will love, if another hates. I will gain a balance on the side of good, my true being. This alone gives me the forces of God wherewith to overcome all error” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 104).
We must choose to love even under the most difficult circumstances if we would help elevate ourselves and humanity to that which is good and worthy.