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Diversity without fear

From the August 16, 1993 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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Diversity is a fact of life, thank goodness. No one would want to live in a world where every individual expressed herself or himself in exactly the same way as every other individual. Variety makes life interesting. It is also practical, for if everyone developed exactly the same talents and skills, many needed tasks would never get done, and much that enriches and inspires human experience would never be expressed.

People do tend, however, to feel more comfortable with the familiar than with the unfamiliar. The question is, How can you and I appreciate the diversity that exists in families, communities, and around the globe without in any way feeling threatened by the unfamiliar?

It helps to understand that diversity is grounded in the spiritual reality of man's being—in his reflection of the divine Life, which is God, good, and has no element of evil. God expresses himself in qualities and ideas that reflect His nature as Principle, Life, Truth, Soul, Mind, Love, Spirit. Since God is infinite Spirit, His qualities and ideas are infinite and can be expressed in an endless variety of ways; yet they never deviate from His pure and good nature.

As God's reflection, man, we each have from God every spiritual quality and idea available to us to express in unlimited variety and individuality. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "Identity is the reflection of Spirit, the reflection in multifarious forms of the living Principle, Love" (p. 477).

When we nurture our own spiritual development by coming to understand that we truly are God's unlimited offspring, and by expressing God's qualities and ideas more fully in our lives, we begin to discover talents we didn't realize we even had. To put these talents to use—in the development of new and useful products, with performance of needed services, or in the sharing of beautiful insights through artistic expression —benefits everyone and injures no one. And the more we approach life from this spiritual standpoint, the more open we are—indeed, eager—to see how other individuals, cultures, and nations are expressing man's inherent diversity and goodness.

But what about the evil in human nature? Isn't that what we may often be wary of when we come face to face with unfamiliar people, customs, and cultures? And perhaps others may even be wary about us! How can we know what we need to know about one another in order to be secure and unafraid of any possible harm?

In his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, Paul posed the question "What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him?" and followed it by saying, "even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God" (I Cor. 2:11). Our eyes and ears cannot know "the spirit of man which is in him" or "the Spirit of God." Spirit and Spirit's reflection, man, are unknown to the material senses. Mrs. Eddy gives this description of unknown in the Glossary of Science and Health: "That which spiritual sense alone comprehends, and which is unknown to the material senses" (p. 596).

When we are in unfamiliar settings, it is our spiritual sense —our spiritual intuition and understanding—that enables us to discern individual character on its true merits. Spiritual sense sees beyond stereotypical preconceptions to the true heart of an individual. And with the aid of spiritual sense we recognize and disarm, with the power of divine Love, whatever would cause us harm if undetected. There is no room for evil in the divine Mind or in Mind's reflection, man. Spiritual sense helps us to know evil as powerless and as not belonging to any person. Then we're not subject to evil and are protected from situations that may be inappropriate, while acquainting ourselves with the diversity of man's goodness.

Prejudicial judgments, based on material sense testimony and hearsay, have kept good people from appreciating and getting to know one another all too often. Spiritual sense is the only reliable guide to man's true nature. There is room in the world for every individual expression of the divine nature. In fact, there is an absolute need for it. So we want to welcome the wide diversity of spiritual expression that is possible to ourselves and others.

Christ Jesus left us no doubt that he expects his followers to develop their spiritual talents in tangible ways to improve the world. His parable of the talents (see Matt. 25:14–30)—in which those who utilized their talents found them increased, while the one who had his talent in the earth lost it—shows that we have nothing to fear from anyone's use of God-given talents. And it shows us that one can only lose one's talents through failing to use them. Even then, though, we can regain them by opening our hearts anew to the spiritual qualities God is forever imparting to man, and by putting them to work to glorify Him and to bless mankind.

We all have much to learn from one another. Though we may be, to material sense, different—by reason of race, culture, nationality—through spiritual sense we can feel and experience our kinship as the offspring of Spirit. At the same time we explore and appreciate the diversity of expression whereby we are bringing enrichment and needed advancements into our shared world.

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