It’s certainly fulfilling to express love – to give generously, be supportive, and do unselfish things for family and friends. But it can be especially challenging – and especially important – to care for those who are struggling most to feel loved: the unlawful, the unruly, those who are dishonest or cruel. It can be tempting to think such individuals are not deserving of love.
I truly feel, though, that the genuine expression of heartfelt love – love that is derived from the Divine – has the power to permanently heal hatred in whatever form, whether it’s bullying on the playground or some other manifestation of harmful behavior on the larger world stage. “God is love,” the Bible states (I John 4:8). But God’s enduring love can become more real and powerful to us only in proportion as we strive to obey the ever-timely adage, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” This imperative, expressed by Christ Jesus, and found in some form in most religions, holds the key to stemming violence and discord in society.
Jesus lived this love with breathtaking boldness. He reached out to the destitute, the social outcasts, and the morally straying to heal them and restore hope and spirituality to their lives. Articulating a new precedent for humanity, he said, “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; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44, 45).
Cultivating the honest desire to love one another is something we can all do, because the nature of each of us is Christlike and good. Jesus taught that we have a noble heritage as sons and daughters of God, our Father-Mother. He explained that the kingdom of God, Love, is already within us as God’s image and likeness.
Expressing Christly love can begin humbly with a small, tender seed of spiritual perception that we all have the same Father, or origin, the one divine Spirit. That we are all truly brothers and sisters – Spirit’s spiritual expressions – fashioned after God’s goodness with the capacity to love and be loved. Better understanding God, good, as our real source also aids us in healing wrong behavior, because we perceive it as distinct from the individual, as no part of his or her true, original selfhood as God’s loved reflection.
When faced with evil deeds, we can strive to water the seeds of Christly love in our hearts – neutralizing any sense of revenge or indifference – so that we may more effectively reach out in prayer and compassion to those on whom evil appears to have made its mark. Right there God is seeing His children in their original, spiritual, sinless nature. And we can, too. When we see our fellow men and women as God does, it can lead us to take just the right steps forward in any given situation to promote forgiveness, justice, and mercy, including taking proper civic action when necessary.
I regularly volunteer at a prison and meet with various inmates, many of whom have been convicted of violent crimes. Through our group prayers, Bible study, and open sharing times, I’ve been gratified to see signs of genuine repentance and even wholesale reformation taking place. The seeds of love and regeneration are taking root right where a barren desert of hopelessness had seemed the only reality. These individuals are learning to reject the misconceptions they’ve had of themselves – mental impositions that have previously hid from view their true nature as God’s children.
In her central work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: “Human affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meet no return. Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it” (p. 57). As we take a stand for the truth of man’s loving nature as God’s child, and put our prayers into action, we can help the world see that an active expression of divine Love is the highest, most effective response to human hate.
In speaking of the capacity of good to triumph over evil, the Bible gives this promise: “The desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1). Each of us has the God-given ability to let the seeds of divine Love take root and flourish in our heart – and to help water them in the deserving hearts of others.