It’s not uncommon for nations, states, corporations, organizations, educational institutions, various teams and communities, even families, to articulate their values or standards for behavior. Take, for example, the United States Navy. While on active duty in the Navy, I remember learning about and striving to live by its “Core Values”: honor, courage, and commitment. These or related values were inscribed on the face of stair steps within some of my commands’ buildings in order to make the point that all of us should be examples of them.
Clearly, these and other positive values, such as meekness and kindness, are not limited to simply a few people. Christ Jesus placed the latter qualities at the very center of his ministry and expected his followers to express the same values, and to be forgiving, pure, and honest. He summed up what it means to live according to the highest and most consistent values as loving God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourselves. And it’s noteworthy that he acknowledged how important it is to avoid the hypocrisy of merely appearing to have values, while inwardly the heart is far from the divine goodness they represent.
That indicates where true values or upright, moral qualities come from. Beyond being defined by an organization, government, or any group of individuals, there is a more universal sense of what’s right and good based on the nature of God. The Bible describes God as holy, pure, good, righteous, just, merciful, trustworthy, faithful – a God of grace and love. As we learn more about God, we also learn more about ourselves, because as God’s sons and daughters we include, and are spiritually created to reflect, the qualities that have their source in Him. Knowing this inspires and enables us to actually live these qualities to the fullest.
While approaching the end of a tour in the Navy, I was offered a higher-ranking position. It was a great opportunity, and I took it. However, as I discovered, it involved managing a group who, as part of their duties, were required to complete an extensive rigorous educational and physical training program, at the end of which was a physical fitness test and a difficult board exam. It was optional for me to also go through the training program – I was not required to take it. This meant that, as the group’s leader, I could be encouraging them in their endeavors without having gone through the same training myself. The other option, of course, was to participate in the training, but my new position meant taking on many more responsibilities, and I couldn’t see how I could do it all.
But through my study of Christian Science, I’ve learned that all the goodness we express originates in God, not ourselves, since God is our true Parent. Christ Jesus knew this to be true. He said of himself, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19, New International Version). While Jesus was talking about his own unique identity as the Son of God, as “joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17) we can prayerfully claim that all individuals are truly God’s spiritual offspring and therefore we can expect to manifest God’s goodness through the expression of positive qualities and values in our daily lives.
As I prayed about this, it became clear to me that completing the training program was the fair and honorable thing to do – an important expression of leadership commitment – and with God as the source of good qualities and values, I had everything I needed to fulfill the demands required of me. As I went forward with the training, I found that I was able to fulfill the responsibilities of my new position, as well as meet the rigorous physical and intellectual requirements of the program.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, emphasized the need to value qualities such as innocence, unselfishness, and faithfulness. She wrote, “What grander ambition is there than to maintain in yourselves what Jesus loved, and to know that your example, more than words, makes morals for mankind!” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 110). We should be glad wherever we see pure values being cherished and lived. Holding ourselves to a moral code built on our identity as God’s pure expression not only blesses our own lives, but helps to promote goodness and prosperity in the world around us.