DEFYING DIFFERENCES WITH LOVE
THE WORLD SEEMS trapped in perpetual "us and them" warfare—caught in the habitual groupings of nationality, age, race, and culture that highlight individual differences, rather than similarities.
At an early age we learn to pick sides for spelling bees, relay, baseball, or math teams. The result? In our desire to be with what's familiar, we may become conditioned to look for and avoid what's different—not simply in acquaintances but in activities, choice of food, travel. Such a tendency imposes on one's natural leaning to love others, and is a perspective that has negative implications for humanity as a whole.
The story I once heard of a Midwestern farmer defies that perspective. Year after year, he'd won a blue ribbon for his entry in the corn competition at his state fair. Then a newspaper reporter discovered that the farmer shared his own seed corn with neighbors. The reporter was surprised, since those neighbors entered that same competition. The farmer explained that wind carries the corn pollen from field to field: "If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn."
What a life-lesson! It points to solutions for every community and world problem, and affirms that the welfare of everyone is bound up with the welfare of all. Further, it illustrates the effect of following Jesus' command to love our neighbor as ourself (see Mark 12:31).
Recently, a news commentary about the work of Heifer International caught my attention. This organization provides a continuing supply of food by giving families, rather than shortterm provisions, a live animal to raise—such as a lamb, heifer, or chicken. Even more compelling is the project's "Passing on the Gift" aspect: Participants who receive a heifer, for example, agree to give a neighbor one of its calves, as well as the know-how to raise it. Each then experiences the joy of helping others while learning how to fulfill their own needs. As a result, in places such as Tanzania, Christian and Muslim neighbors are, possibly for the first time, now experiencing the wisdom and blessing of working and loving together. This defies as well the claim that longheld opinions and traditions cannot change.
THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT THE STRIFE THAT CAN RESULT FROM AN "US AND THEM" PHILOSOPHY IS A CALL TO PRAYER, WHICH BENEFITS SOCIETY AS A WHOLE.
Individuals like that Midwestern corn farmer and Dan West (who founded Heifer International) saw the practically of loving one's neighbor, thereby debunking the "us and them" way of thinking. One seed, one heifer, at a time. The good news is that the strife that can result from an "us and them" philosophy is a call to prayer, which benefits society as a whole.
Conscientious prayer that strives to understand that God, who is Love itself, is the Father of all, will show each of us how to exercise love. Mary Baker Eddy once wrote that working together is not always cooperation, but sometimes co-elbowing. She counseled, ". . . seek alone the guidance of our common Father. . ., " and ". . . prove his faith by works, ethically, physically, and spiritually." And she continued, "Remember that the first and last lesson of Christian Science is love, perfect love. . ., " and "that unity is divine might, giving to human power, peace" (Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 138).
It is possible with love and prayer to co-elbow in harmony and peace! Unity is divine might and gives peace to humanity. Prayer that acknowledges unity as a law of God aligns thought with His omnipotence, and transforms discord into harmony. Acknowledging that we're all from the same divine Source, brothers and sisters of the same family with the same FatherGod, disarms dogma and tradition that would separate and divide otherwise well-meaning people.
Events that expose tribal factions, mass mistreatment of particular groups, can alert our prayers to accept this truth. Recognizing that there is only one God, unifies us in the understanding that we all have the same divine Parent. And when differing and conflicting opinions, in our families, communities, and even in our churches appear, our prayers can enthusiastically affirm the spiritual fact of God as Love and the interconnectedness of His children everywhere. Children embraced, now and forever, in His universal community.
Our viewpoint then changes to "we" instead of "us and them." Loving our neighbor becomes more about what binds us rather than what separates us.
It's easy to agree with the Psalmist who wrote: "How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head" (133:1, 2). CSS