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Praying about terrorism in Jesus’ way

From the July 18, 2011 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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In an age in which terror alerts and homeland security play an ever-increasing role in everyone’s daily life, it is encouraging how prayer is becoming more widely recognized as a reliable antidote to terrorism. While spiritual thinkers don’t naively and foolishly embrace a terrorist’s hateful acts, they do acknowledge deeply and clearly the oneness we all share in God, who is utterly good. And it is this goodness that ultimately prevails. In an absolute sense, there is nothing to oppose it.

It could be said that the march of goodness through time is seen first in individuals—people on the street—who yield their thinking to the love of God, who truly is Father-Mother to every single person in every nation. God’s flawless goodness and purity are reflected everywhere in His creation, and, if we look, we can spot such qualities all around us. I would even suggest that to view others through this lens is to genuinely love them in the healing way that Christ Jesus taught: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39, New Living Translation).

The relations of God and man, divine Principle and idea, are indestructible in Science; and Science knows no lapse from nor return to harmony, but holds the divine order or spiritual law, in which God and all that He creates are perfect and eternal, to have remained unchanged in its eternal history.


Science and Health with Key
to the Scriptures, p. 470

But what does it really mean to have this neighborly kind of love? It’s got to mean more than just being thoughtful and polite, important though such gestures are. Lately, I’ve come to appreciate that it must be to love without conditions—to love without expectation of anything in return. It’s to love without keeping score. It’s to love unselfishly simply because God is Love, as the Bible puts it (see I John 4:16), and it’s perfectly natural to act in this way.

Many peaceful, flourishing societies in the world have been built upon this foundation of brotherly and sisterly love, confirming that long-term success in human affairs results from following this approach. Will there ever come a day in history when it would be appropriate to stop loving our neighbors wholeheartedly? When would it be right to turn our backs on a guiding principle that has made so many people so strong?

To indulge in hateful or revengeful fits of violence is to abandon the vitality and strength of a society based on neighborly love. We can’t base our lives on hate and love at the same time. Most of us would agree that strong, swift, and effective defense is completely acceptable. The mental abyss of revenge isn’t—no one wins. No wonder Mary Baker Eddy was moved to say, “Revenge is inadmissible” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 22).

To live with a firm commitment to express the qualities of God at all times enables one to identify and eliminate hidden evil and self-serving intentions. Mrs. Eddy said of Jesus: “Out of the amplitude of his pure affection, he defined Love. With the affluence of Truth, he vanquished error” (Science and Health, p. 54). Today, we, too, have the opportunity to vanquish the motives and intents behind terrorist acts with the affluence of God’s love. More than ever, now is the time to bring to the forefront of our lives love for our brothers and sisters, sound ethics and morals, and the freedom that comes with fearlessness. To do so on an individual level contributes to the well-being of all humanity in unseen and wonderful ways. The laws of God are behind the act of loving unselfishly, and nothing can overthrow such omnipotence.

Jesus’ counsel is refreshingly clear on this: “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:43–45, New Living Translation).

To say such seemingly irresponsible things as “Pray for those who persecute you,” Jesus must surely have been convinced of the all-encompassing, healing power of God as Love. For us to follow Jesus’ example today and yield our thoughts and acts to God’s guidance is a source of tremendous strength.

The whole point of terrorism is to engender fear. It’s impossible to feel the presence and love of God, and at the same time feel afraid. The moment we begin to celebrate the love of God, fear evaporates. Then, right there within our own thinking, terrorism—including the hateful motives behind it—is disarmed and defeated. Our thoughts of our world, when fashioned by God, embrace and heal our world.

Think further of a Bible citation such as “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God” (II Thess. 3:5). The writer of this epistle was saying it to a group of early Christians, but he could just as well have been saying it to any of us today. What a joy it is to let one’s heart be directed toward the love of God! When your heart is filled in this way, it overflows with appreciation for even the smallest examples of God’s goodness in other people. It’s filled with a solid understanding that terrorism, for example, has no source in God, and therefore has no future. And it’s filled with the rich glow of neighborly love, which is the ultimate antidote to terrorism.

Science and Health speaks of “. . . the great heart of Love, . . .” (p. 448). As I see it, the breadth and omnipotence of this great heart are ours, and it’s big enough to compensate for all the wrong that’s ever been done. This heart is big enough to make us sing with joy, keep our world whole and unified, and let us rest without fear. When the surrender to Love absorbs our interest, the power of God is made evident, and a wonderful, cleansing spiritualization takes place, which truly embraces everyone.

I’ve always believed that in day-to-day life it’s a mistake to skip over an opportunity to love. The Bible puts it so plainly: “Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love” (I John 4:7, The Message). While stolid, willful mistrust and hate breed mental darkness, neighborly love, lived, breaks through the mists of self and materiality. What greater goal, then, can we have than to be absorbed with God’s love for one another? The moment we allow that love to work in us—when we develop it, honor it in others, and express it freely ourselves—wonders occur.

That word develop is key. It’s a bit like taking a favorite shirt out of a closet and wearing it. Just having it hanging there doesn’t do much for you. It’s when you button it up and enjoy it all day, that it serves a real purpose. Similarly, just having the qualities of divine Love in our mental closet is nice. But it’s not till we take them out and “wear them” that we fully understand their value. Patience, tenderness, constancy, purity, forbearance, kindness, and gentleness are some of the qualities of Love, and expressing them isn’t just useful; it heals many things in our lives—including the fear of terrorism.

Love heals many things in our lives—including the fear of terrorism.

I’m beginning to see that, since God is supreme, and God is Love, love must become supreme in my thinking. Love is inexhaustible, inextinguishable. It’s our source of being and identity. It’s our sole supply of self-worth. I have found that to be thoroughly grounded in my conviction that divine Love is the only presence brings mastery of every situation. No circumstance can overpower me if Love fills my thought. Love, lived and cultivated throughout the day, cleanses and enriches, heals and restores.

Once in a while, I like to search my thinking to see whom or what I need to love. It’s kind of fun to do this. It may be a person you know or used to know. It may be an aspect of your job. It may be a political figure. It may be where you live or what you’re doing now. Whatever it is, we all need to make space for the power of divine Love to assert itself and heal.

Expressing divine Love is what we do most naturally. Its expression is part of our basic makeup—the substance of whatever we are doing, thinking, or saying. Joyfully, we can let Love work in us—shine through us—and help bring the bonus of healing throughout the world.

There’s a great diversity of people on this planet. Diversity is one of the things that make life rich and beautiful. As neighbors, we share oneness in God, and this gives us a foundation for heartfelt, shared love. People have no valid reason to indulge in hatred and revenge, which only consume them and lead, ultimately, to death. Divine Love expressed in our own lives, moment by moment, is our best weapon, resulting in goodness and peace for everyone.

We all have equal access to this eternally powerful Love. Nothing can stop it—not even terrorism. As Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love” (Pulpit and Press, p. 3).

Mark Swinney is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher who lives and teaches in the Albuquerque, New Mexico, area. He’s also a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship.

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