In Christianity’s early days, one of the budding movement’s most spiritually minded men, Stephen, was murdered. Rage motivated the actions of a mob, and for a moment evil seemed to have triumphed over good – presenting the very inverse of Christianity’s message to the world.
Yet something that underscored that message occurred right where evil appeared to have prevailed. Stephen lived the Christian love he had preached. His final words, infinitely gracious, were a prayer for his persecutors: “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60).
The healing love Stephen’s life epitomized wasn’t extinguished in that moment, but magnified. His unbowed goodness in the face of evil had a lasting effect through the impact it had on the life of someone present at Stephen’s killing. The man, Saul – one of the most ardent persecutors of Jesus’ followers – was later transformed and became the Apostle Paul, who boldly shared Christ’s message far and wide.
While we can’t know precisely what part Stephen’s forgiveness played in that transformation, Paul’s life echoed and even amplified Stephen’s example of standing for good in the face of evil. Following his dramatic life turnaround, Paul was in a shipwreck, unjustly jailed, and even brutally stoned. Yet through his spiritual understanding, along with the prayers of fellow followers of Jesus, good prevailed over all those evils.
From the perspective of such proofs, Paul said, “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39).
Even in the midst of our most heart-rending struggles, we too can be persuaded of this spiritual inseparability from divine Love, God, and gain a conviction of the power of divine goodness over the evils we face. In particular, the teachings of Christian Science encourage us to recognize that God’s goodness is not only more powerful than evil, but infinite in nature.
Certainly, evil feels painfully real if we hear of a tragedy. But even then we have a choice. We can accept the finality of the news, or we can strongly challenge the spiritually invalid conclusion that evil has truly been able to rob anyone of even a moment of their eternal inseparability from God’s goodness.
That’s what came to me following news of a friend tragically killed while engaged in selfless service. At first I felt shocked. It seemed that God, good, had been absent when tragedy struck.
But I prayed persistently to attain a higher perception – the Christ-idea of our spiritual inseparability from Love. God isn’t ever absent, not for a moment. That doesn’t mean God is part of the unjust circumstances themselves, or merely standing by. It means that God is truly present instead of whatever circumstances suggest the opposite.
Like Paul, Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, courageously overcame countless challenges to her heartfelt labors – in her case, to, as she put it, “reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing” (“Manual of The Mother Church,” p. 17). So it was with the authority of those proofs of God’s ever-present power that she wrote: “We lose the high signification of omnipotence, when after admitting that God, or good, is omnipresent and has all-power, we still believe there is another power, named evil” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 469).
As I pondered this idea, I saw how details of a tragedy are a material sense of a moment in time. But spiritual sense gives us a timeless, divine perspective that perceives only God’s view of creation.
As my thought yielded to that divine sense, I found myself, to use Paul’s word, persuaded that there had never been a moment when my friend wasn’t God’s spiritual offspring, at one with God’s infinite love. I felt such a heartwarming sense of the qualities that made up her unique, spiritual identity and felt clear that they were untouched by the narrative of evil versus good. I also recognized the seeds of healing love she had sown in other lives by expressing her God-reflecting goodness.
Divine Love never pauses, and God’s creation is forever one with that ever-present Love. Knowing that, we can echo and amplify whatever good that evil would claim to steal away, by taking a stand to live even more consistently on the basis of these spiritual ideas.
Adapted from an editorial published in the July 16, 2018, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.
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