Feeling pressured is usually thought of as undesirable. Keeping up with the demands of normal life is challenging for many, and much more serious for those trying to escape desperate conditions. But there’s a different kind of pressure that everyone deserves to feel – one that lifts up rather than pulls down.
This is seen in Christ Jesus and St. Paul. They were luminaries who lived under a pressure that actually gave them more confidence, strength, and joy. They faced huge demands, dangerous threats, and weariness. Crowds pressed on them for help. Corrupt powers tried to stop them from teaching spiritual ideas that freed people from oppression.
But a greater counterpressure sustained and inspired them – the divine call to show the world God’s saving love. Jesus said: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus didn’t see himself as a solo actor trying to achieve things. He knew he was yoked with infinite, divine power that causes all good, and called us to come to the same understanding.
Paul was frequently beaten down – literally – but the love that had turned his own life from darkness to light drove him forward and constantly renewed him, physically and spiritually. He urged people to unyoke from thoughts and actions that were less than Godlike: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (II Corinthians 6:17, 18).
Christian Science posits that the big “unclean thing” that makes us feel we’re lacking something – refreshment, strength, ability, love – is believing we are self-determined beings. Jesus came to show us that we are expressions of the perfect Being, God, and gave us a model for how to live that way in the world. Even some grasp of this truth has unyoked so many from mental and physical stress. In a recent podcast on JSH-Online.com, a man told how he found freedom and new purpose after years of alcoholism by learning how to live “one on one with God” (Tom Davis, “A precious discovery,” July 23, 2018).
In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, referred to “the constant pressure of the apostolic command to come out from the material world and be separate” (p. 451). That’s welcome pressure. Seeking to know and live God’s love will raise us from fear to the freedom and happiness of life motivated by the divine Spirit. And it compels those who’ve experienced this uplifting power a little more than others to want to help others do the same.
I was moved by a striking depiction of this in the movie “The Forgiven,” based on the activity of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Following the extreme violence of the anti-apartheid struggle, the commission attempted to unite the country by bringing together victims and perpetrators to find a way to go forward together. While the plot and many characters in the film are composites drawn from different stories rather than documented events and people, what came through more powerfully than the awful tragedies described is the conviction Mr. Tutu had – and struggled to maintain – that evil is not natural or unchangeable for anyone, and that this truth will finally compel everyone to come out from prisons of fear, ignorance, and hate.
Fear or anger sometimes creates pressure to change others’ behavior by force of will. But improved character comes only by force of truth and love. Jesus and many others have shown that identifying people as God’s sons and daughters makes them want to act like it, and know that they can. God, divine Love, calls us to see that we’re inseparably yoked to limitless ability and good. This gives rest to our souls, confidence for our tasks, and joy to face each day.
Adapted from an editorial published in the Oct. 29, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.