The power that stops violence

Today’s contributor explores the biblical example of Saul’s transformation and how it speaks to God’s ability to heal violent intent.

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As the events of 9/11 are remembered, it seems fitting to honor the courage and sacrifice of the first responders, and also to give gratitude for the many times in which such attacks have been prevented. It also seems natural to remember there are still too many places where people’s lives are disrupted by senseless acts of terror. We can all play a part in helping stop such events. However small our efforts may seem, we need to resist the temptation to think they won’t make a difference.

An article published in the Scientific American Mind magazine in 2007 makes the point that terrorists often believe their violent actions are for the greater good – that they are “essentially rational people who weigh the costs and benefits of terrorist acts, concluding that terrorism is profitable.” A little further down the article points out that the writings of some significant terrorists reveal that “intellectualism can coexist with hatred” (Annette Schaefer, “Inside the Terrorist Mind”).

Whether an organization or individual believes it has good motives and aims or not, the influence of hatred or an inclination toward senseless violence is never something that should be tolerated. The question we might ask ourselves is, how can we help keep individuals from falling prey to negative influences that could lead to violent acts?

When hateful thoughts of any kind are present and then indulged, it indicates a misconception and limited view of God. God’s nature is wholly good, as Christ Jesus not only stated but proved through healing. If God is supreme – the only power – then the only basis for hatred must be in a false sense of God and His nature. This limited viewpoint and its negative effects can be seen in the Bible. At one point Saul, who would later be renamed Paul, is determined to stop the Christian movement by violence and coercion. To Saul, Christianity was wrong, and stopping it from spreading was a good thing. However, while traveling, “a light from heaven” caused him to fall to the earth, and he heard the voice of Jesus rebuking him for his malicious intents. The whole encounter can be found in the book of Acts, but the result of the experience was that Saul’s outlook was entirely transformed. His thought had been touched by divine Love through Christ.

Saul’s recognition of Christ, which gave him a clear understanding of God’s power and goodness, not only changed his actions, it changed his aims as well. He became an advocate for the all-loving, all-powerful God and, as Paul, went on to preach Christianity throughout Asia Minor and parts of Europe. That power that transformed him, the Christ, is still available and present – it speaks to everyone, and for those who listen, it brings regeneration to thought and action. Paul assured us that “we have the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16).

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, discovered that this “mind of Christ” was not a personal possession for the few but an eternal gift from God to His children, all of us, made in His image. She wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Having no other gods, turning to no other but the one perfect Mind to guide him, man is the likeness of God, pure and eternal, having that Mind which was also in Christ” (p. 467).

In a way, we could take that familiar phrase, “we have the mind of Christ,” and just as easily say the Mind of Christ has us – and has the power and potential to reach the thought of everyone. It has the power to disarm violent thoughts that would lead to violent action, just as it did for Paul centuries ago. Yielding to this one Mind, God, naturally clears out harmful beliefs, including the belief that violence could in some way bring about good.

As we gain an expanded, or more spiritual, view of God, we will begin to see that God is able to bring all into His fold. God can’t be coerced or intimidated to provide good to all; it’s His nature. The conditions of our human life and decisions we’ve made in the past can’t weigh against the reforming power of God’s love.

I think this idea of God’s reforming power is beautifully summed up in the following verse of a poem by Mrs. Eddy titled “Satisfied”:

And of these stones, or tyrants’ thrones,
God able is
To raise up seed – in thought and deed –
To faithful His.
(“Poems,” p. 79)

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