In the face of violence, build on a model of love
When today’s contributor was robbed and assaulted, the idea that God is all-powerful Love itself prompted him to forgive rather than to react in kind. The situation turned around completely, and his wallet was returned to him right then and there.
When someone hits you, do you hit back? For thousands of years this has posed a problem. Over 3,000 years ago, in Moses’ time, they devised two different solutions. One was to hit back, but not harder than you were hit – “an eye for an eye” – which was a great step of progress in a day when vengeance was often hugely disproportionate. The other is as radically innovative today as it was then: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18).
This second solution is based on an entirely different picture than action-reaction: only action – loving. It’s based on the premise that love actually expresses great power. For the apostle John in the Bible’s New Testament, Love was literally a name for the All-power, God (see I John 4:16).
The Love we’re talking about here is not only incredibly powerful, it’s the only legitimate power, as the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, has pointed out. In “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896” she said of love: “I am in awe before it. Over what worlds on worlds it hath range and is sovereign! the underived, the incomparable, the infinite All of good, the alone God, is Love” (pp. 249-250).
Understanding just how powerful divine Love is can defuse reactions and bring healing. I had a chance to experience this one day when I was giving away some materials in a parking lot in the “gangland” part of our town. A young man asked for something, and when I bent over to find it, he picked my wallet out of my back pocket. I felt it and whirled around. He punched me in the face. A crowd of other men started taking his side.
Earlier that day, I had been thinking about a favorite line of mine in the Bible: “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever” (Psalms 23:6). In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mrs. Eddy explains that as dwelling in the consciousness of divine Love (see p. 578).
What came to me was that I needed to change my picture of these gang members – to see them as children of divine Love, the spiritual expressions of God’s goodness – and to be conscious of the power and presence of God’s love. And faced with violence in that parking lot, I also knew I had to forgive, an essential part of loving. To me, forgiveness is the putting aside of my judgments about others to listen for Love’s guidance and feel the presence of Love always here. No one can ever be outside God’s love.
With all this in mind I was able to see through the facade of the tough guy, the self-centered, the uncaring; I glimpsed the nature of Love as these men’s own, and only real, nature. At that point, I found it easy to forgive them, to feel pure, spiritual love for them as my brothers in God. By getting my ego out of the way, I could mentally acknowledge God’s love for His children.
Then the leader stepped forward and, despite grumbling on the part of some of the others with him, returned the wallet to me and apologized.
Let’s face it: We live in a world in which violence sometimes seems inevitable. It can be easy to be drawn into the action-reaction model. But divine Love is always in action. This Love is the divine Parent of all. Surely the effect of that infinitely loving Parent could not be anything other than unselfish, good, merciful, just, and so on. That Love is the essence of each one of us, despite outward appearances.
Each of us can contribute to healing violence by starting in our own consciousness, by letting our relation to God, divine Love – rather than hatred or revenge – animate us, by striving to love God with all our soul, all our mind, all our strength (see Luke 10:27). Then we can perceive and love the wholly spiritual nature in each of God’s children.
This is not about attempting to change others; it’s divine Love transforming us all from within. Building on this basis, we’re learning to love, to value everyone’s true nature as our own nature is transformed in the process. We begin to see that hate and vengeance are neither advisable nor inevitable. They cannot destroy Love, because infinite Love is the only real power.
Adapted from an article published in the Aug. 9, 2010, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.