A young Christian protester in Hong Kong recently faced the moral dilemma of whether he should take part in the more violent actions being taken by some protesters. Knowing violence was wrong, but feeling helpless, he asked his pastor, “Can I throw bricks?”
Haven’t we all felt the impulsion to retaliate when we feel something is unjust? The Bible includes the story of a follower of Jesus who felt that way. The 26th chapter of Matthew describes how a multitude sent from “the chief priests and elders” came to take Jesus to hold him as a prisoner before delivering him to Pilate, the governor of Judea. When his disciple, Peter, reacted by cutting off the ear of a servant of the high priest, Jesus responded by healing the servant, putting into practice his own words, “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” (Matthew 5:44).
In both large and small matters, I have learned to trust the guidance in the Bible and in the book, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy. Science and Health counsels: “At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil” (p. 571).
This admonition to know oneself is certainly a call to be aware of what might need healing in one’s own consciousness, such as a tendency to react angrily to injustice. But to me it’s also saying that I need to know myself as a loved child of God, made in His image. This understanding helps me see that I’m not a limited mortal with a limited, and sometimes over-emotional, point of view. Rather, as the child of an all-good God, I have access to all the goodness, wisdom, and grace that characterizes the nature of God and which enables us to “overcome evil with good.”
I had a small experience where I had to make a choice to either battle with someone or let God, divine Love, be expressed in me and guide me in what to say and do. Late one evening, I drove into my drive-in storage facility only to find I couldn’t get to my space because a large truck blocked the aisle. The owner refused to move. Unable to do what I needed to, my only way out of the garage was to back out through an entrance-only door in a complicated maneuver. As I did this, I ended up clipping a post in the narrow exit and damaging it.
The next day I reported it to the storage facility, but was told by the manager that the situation was my fault. She added that I would need to pay for a broken sensor on the post and would be locked out of my storage space until I had done so.
After a few irate phone calls back and forth, I knew my situation would only worsen if I pursued this course of action. Instead I decided to be obedient to Christ Jesus’ instruction that we love our enemies. I knew that in order to do that I had to release my view that God’s children could be locked in combat. God loves all His children equally, governing all of us in perfect harmony. This included not only the manager but also the man who had blocked me with his truck.
As I changed my focus from frustration and anger to forgiveness and love, I was gaining a clearer, spiritual view of everyone involved, including myself. We are all the men and women of God’s creating, and even a glimpse of this fact starts to dissolve any frustration or anger we might be feeling toward another. I was grateful to feel free from anger through this higher spiritual sense of my neighbor.
Then, an inspired thought came to me that this might be a woman who had been really nice to me a few years back. I was led to some old emails, and sure enough, it was the same woman who had offered to reduce my storage rent significantly so I wouldn’t have to move. I had written her a glowing note of appreciation for her kindness.
Not knowing if this woman would be at the storage facility, I nonetheless obeyed what I felt was divine guidance to go there and try to see her in person. She was there, and I went up and took her hand. Introducing myself as the woman she was fighting with on the phone, I told her that what I considered to be an angel message from God had reminded me of her kindness, and I was led to find my letter of gratitude to her. She was astonished and said, “Now that I know who you are, we won’t fight anymore … and I’ll make sure they don’t charge you anything for the damage.”
In Proverbs it says, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6). When we obey the counsel to love those we seem to be in conflict with, it brings blessings.