Like many others, I have been moved to prayer by recent attacks around the world, including this weekend’s tragic shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I have been helped to cut through the fear that would paralyze us or keep us from moving forward by a statement made by Christ Jesus, a command he asked his disciples to follow: “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. But he also knew that love – a quality of divine Love, God – 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 the love of God 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.
No one is truly born to hate. 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. Each individual is inherently able to perceive the reality of God’s love for them and for others – to see that hatred is no part of anyone’s true being, even when they feel tempted to believe it is useful and necessary.
To rise above destructive thinking and bring healing, we must insist on the power of divine Love and not give in to a feeling that fear or hate are an inevitability. Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, makes this point in a 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 like 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.
In that experience, it was clear to me that fear tends to darken our thoughts and make us mistrust those who mean us no harm. Fear divides people into factions, overshadows even the tiniest elements of honesty, and encourages ignorance. But whatever the particular circumstances, God’s love is still present, and its healing influence can bring comfort to individuals or a community affected by a conflict or attack. Those of us not directly involved can affirm that God, Love, is present and able to guide them to 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. In this way, each of us can make a difference.