Living together in harmony
Today’s column touches on what it means to follow the golden rule and love one’s neighbor.
As I walked along the seaside one morning, my sense of world peace was bolstered when I noticed several ducks, geese, sea gulls, and a great blue heron all fishing together in the same small bay. While their physical appearances were quite different, and their “cultures” not at all alike, they didn’t seem to notice as they went harmoniously about their lives. There were no squabbles about who owned the bay or who had historical rights to be there, just a quiet, restful sense that there was enough sunshine, sea, and fish for everyone. My guess is that in some way their coexistence mutually benefits them all.
What especially struck me is that these seaside creatures, serenely going about their daily activities, were simply living their lives, doing what they do. To me there’s a lesson here about the naturalness of living together in peace.
This scene also reminded me of the idea that we should treat others as we wish to be treated, an idea that exists in some form in most all faith traditions. In Christianity it’s called the golden rule: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). Christ Jesus’ simple statement of respect for the lives and dignity of others is the foundation for a peaceful and harmonious coexistence.
In the Gospel of Luke in the Bible, a man that Jesus was speaking to asked him “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told a story of a traveler who had been beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the side of the road. While several of this man’s countrymen passed him by, a Samaritan – whose community had been historically hostile to the Jewish people, of whom the traveler was one – stopped to help. The Samaritan first provided aid on the side of the road, then transported the injured man to an inn where he cared for him further. But that wasn’t all. The next day, before he continued on his way, the Samaritan paid the innkeeper an extra amount to assure the traveler was fully provided for, and promised the innkeeper that upon his return, he would pay whatever else was spent for the man’s care (see Luke 10:25-37).
Truly, the story of the good Samaritan is a powerful example of what it means to follow the golden rule and love one’s neighbor. Because we are all the children of one Father, divine Spirit, our brotherhood and sisterhood with one another is already established within the reality of this spiritual relation to God. The simple acceptance of this spiritual fact inspires affection, kindness, and brotherly love – qualities that are inherent in everyone because we are made in the spiritual likeness of infinite Love.
As God’s creation we don’t have to struggle to love one another, but forever reflect the love of God to each other. It’s understanding and expressing the reality of our divine relation to divine Love that unites us in practical terms. As Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would consist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” pp. 469-470).
When I was teaching school I often had children of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian backgrounds in my class. It never occurred to any of them that they were different from each other. They worked, played, ate, and laughed together. They were always available to help each other in any way they could. And during social studies lessons, which involved learning about world religions and culture, they were interested in and respectful of each other’s heritage. Never did it occur to a single one of them that their different family traditions and histories would impact their relationships with each other.
What a lesson we can all learn from such innocent, childlike thought – how completely natural it is to live together in harmony. Practicing the golden rule can come effortlessly to us as we consistently maintain the recognition of our reality as the spiritual expressions of God. To love others is a divine demand, therefore each one of us has the ability to fulfill such a heavenly law.