When protest is prayer

When a minor traffic accident in Cape Town led to a threatening confrontation laced with racial undertones, a driver quietly turned to God. This pause for prayer empowered him to respond with brotherly love rather than anger, leading to a harmonious resolution.

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One sunny afternoon last year, in the middle of the South African summer, I needed to drive into an unfamiliar part of Cape Town. Having stopped at a red traffic light, I decided to have a quick look at the directions on my phone. The next thing I knew, I felt a slight bump. My car had drifted back into the car behind me, as I hadn’t put the brake on properly.

The driver of the car came up to my window and began swearing at me in very strong language with a particular racial bias. Soon it became apparent that he saw me as the enemy and that I might be in some danger. It seemed that to him, I may have represented a people who have caused much of the injustice experienced by people of color in South Africa.

In the face of this fast-deteriorating situation, I uttered a silent, mental protest against the notion that God’s children could be at odds with one another. This was based on the understanding that we all have one Father-Mother, God, and are His spiritual, innocent, loving children. Despite what was going on, I knew that God would guide us both safely.

Over some years, in my study of Christian Science, I have become familiar with the teachings and practice of Jesus. The Gospels recount several instances when Jesus faced conflicts of different kinds, and his responses are instructive. For instance, faced with a crowd who wished to stone a woman who had committed adultery, he paused before responding with a wise reply that immediately extinguished the conflict (see John 8:1-11). When faced with crowds wishing to make him their king, Christ Jesus instead sought solitude for spiritual nourishment and guidance (see John 6:5-15).

In every instance, Jesus took a mental pause in order to pray. He taught: “When you pray, enter your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (Matthew 6:6, Modern English Version).

“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, expands on this subject in its first chapter, titled “Prayer.” Learning that God is divine Spirit, Truth, Life, Love, and Principle, Mrs. Eddy wrote: “The closet typifies the sanctuary of Spirit, the door of which shuts out sinful sense but lets in Truth, Life, and Love. Closed to error, it is open to Truth, and vice versa... . Lips must be mute and materialism silent, that man may have audience with Spirit, the divine Principle, Love, which destroys all error” (p. 15).

In my case, the “error” I had to shut out was the fear and the urge to react to the insults the other driver was leveling at me. This was made easier when I saw them for what they were: thoughts that were not from the all-loving God and that would keep me and this man from feeling God’s care.

As I lifted my thought to God, a feeling of peace and a strong feeling of brotherly love toward this man filtered in. While I could hear the tirade – and even understood it – I didn’t feel threatened anymore, and I just wanted to give the man a warm embrace.

He showed me the damage to his car. I acknowledged my responsibility and gave him my contact details, which he cross-checked. And then his tone changed. He said that he knew someone who could take out the dent very cheaply and that he would send me the invoice by WhatsApp. I told him that I was very sorry to have bumped his car and that I would be happy to refund him.

He then apologized for all the things he had said to me. We parted amicably and peacefully, and I silently thanked God for guiding my thoughts and for showing me His love for all His children.

A few days later I got an invoice for a very reasonable amount, which I duly paid. And then the man sent another apology for his hard words. My heart went out to him, and I gave all glory to God in my gratitude.

Jesus instructed, “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). As we strive to do this, we will see more tangibly that divine Love, God, destroys anger and hate.

Adapted from an article published in the Aug. 3, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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