A family tradition of love and respect

Rather than getting caught up in differences of religious traditions, a woman’s diverse family helped her learn the most important activity is expressing love for God and one another.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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“Are you Hanukkah or Christmas?” said my four-year-old nephew to me many years ago at a family gathering. Our extended family is composed of Jews and Christians, so we have celebrated many religious holidays together, including Passover, Christmas, and Hanukkah. His question was simple and basic: Would we light a menorah or decorate a Christmas tree in our home? And when would the gifts appear?

I’ve cherished all our rich, diverse gatherings as a family, so filled with love and genuine respect for each other. Whatever differences of opinion might crop up in our daily lives, we’ve had the opportunity to learn what is meaningful in our individual faiths and traditions and what we commonly share as pillars of Judaism and Christianity. For me, Christmas especially has been the setting for the affirmation and proof of harmony in our diverse family – and hope for greater respect, love, and harmony throughout the whole world!

As I learned in Christian Science Sunday School, Christ Jesus’ life illustrated the universal love of God, which is available to be felt and expressed through the divinely inspired consciousness of everyone. In the first century, this love pierced prevailing barriers of race, religion, and gender. And this love enables us to work through whatever divides humankind today.

Grammy – my grandmother – was the bridge between the faiths, and the model for loving and living shared precepts. She was raised in Eastern Europe in an Orthodox Jewish family. After coming to the United States as a teenager, she married and started a family. She struggled with many challenges and worried about her capacity to meet the new demands of marriage and motherhood. A friend wanted to help, and offered a gift that proved very practical: the book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy.

Science and Health helped Grammy overcome many difficulties by expanding her spiritual understanding of the commandments she was already so familiar with, recorded by the prophet Moses in the Hebrew Bible. She increasingly saw their relevance to her and her family. The central message of these commands is to love God, the divine creator, with our whole heart; and to love others as we love ourselves. And Grammy learned from being introduced to the Gospels how Christ Jesus and the disciples demonstrated the power of these commandments to reveal a good, God-centered, love-filled, and love-sharing life.

These instructions point to one infinite God, Spirit, who creates, sustains, and loves each of us. We are the inherently spiritual and good offspring of one divine source – as the first chapter of Genesis brings out.

The Bible illustrates the essence and wholeness of God as boundless good, and it shows that He continuously and impartially upholds all that He creates. The more we spiritually understand the nature of our divine source as always present and all-loving – and feel everyone’s inseparable relation to God – the more we’re able to discern the God-given goodness and dignity of ourselves and one another. These qualities are inherent in our true, spiritual individuality created by God.

Rather than ignoring difficult circumstances or reacting to them unthinkingly, we have the spiritual capacity to look beyond surface appearances and prayerfully affirm and appreciate everyone’s spiritual identity as God’s creation. This brings healing into our own lives, and the confidence and poise it instills within us open pathways for engaging with others productively.

In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy writes: “Love for God and man is the true incentive in both healing and teaching.” Referring to God as divine Love itself, she continues: “Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way.” And she concludes with this promise: “Right motives give pinions to thought, and strength and freedom to speech and action” (p. 454).

Whatever holidays we have celebrated as a family over the years, our gatherings have been opportunities to see each other more through the eyes of divine Love. This is the most important thing – more significant than comparing personal opinions about our faith traditions.

Today, each of us can grasp and live to the best we can the biblical instructions. We can strive to learn more how to love God, good, and to love each other as we each are, made in God’s image. This helps us relate to one another – whether family, neighbors, friends, or strangers – in mutual caring and harmony.

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