The recent mass shootings in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, have left countless people once again feeling helpless and vulnerable. There’s an immediate and heartfelt desire within many, including me, to pray for the victims of these crimes. How can we pray in a way that severs the very roots of violence? What can help preempt more violence? And how can we cultivate a totally different way of thinking and living?
The roots of violent acts are, in essence, violent thoughts. Long before a trigger is pulled and bullets fired, angry and hateful thoughts and feelings knock at the door of individual consciousness. Aware of this, Christ Jesus urged people to deal immediately and decisively with anger well before it leads to violence. In his Sermon on the Mount, he identifies anger as the root of murder and encourages those with disagreements to reconcile quickly. It’s a little like reconciling mistakes in your financial ledger: If you fail to correct them, however small, you won’t get the right sum.
How do we do this when facing serious disagreements or hate? By learning to reconcile, or make right, our own thoughts and feelings first. As Jesus taught, we must square up our mental house entirely—bring every thought and feeling into alignment with what is true of God and of His children. We must strive to take Jesus' Golden Rule, for example—Do unto others as you want others to do to you—and use it as a measuring stick for every thought, feeling, and action we have, moment by moment.
Jesus’ revolutionary sermon can serve as a road map for doing this. “Jesus mapped out the path for others,” Mary Baker Eddy affirms in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. “He unveiled the Christ, the spiritual idea of divine Love” (p. 38). What a perfect summary of Jesus’ life purpose—to shine light on the deeper meaning of Love, God’s essential nature! He showed humanity, through his life and actions, what God’s love is really like and what our true nature is like as Love’s spiritual offspring. We can think of Christ as God’s love in action—expressed fully and uniquely in Jesus’ life but present forever through the timeless spiritual qualities he lived and taught.
We can think of Christ as God’s love in action—expressed fully and uniquely in Jesus’ life.
The Bible and other inspired writings across the world’s religious traditions have revealed God’s nature as Love. While there are of course important differences among the various theologies, the Golden Rule, for example, exists in some form in all religious teachings. Doesn’t this hint at the universal Christ speaking to humanity with the clear directive to love one another? Jesus says in his sermon, in essence, that God loves like the sun shines (see Matthew 5:45). Just as the sun blesses the entire earth and everyone on it, so divine Love plays no favorites but shines on all equally and without limit. This view of divine Love’s impartiality, of God’s love for each of us not as sometimes-vicious mortals but as the spiritual expressions of His boundless love, is what so elevates Jesus’ teachings and makes them so far-reaching (and challenging to put into practice, at times!).
Our love must reflect this same universality and constancy. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” Jesus concludes (Matthew 5:48). What this means to me is, “I want you to love others just the way your Father loves you, because you reflect His love.” Certainly, it goes beyond mere human nature to love this way. It is actually our God-given, Love-impelled nature to do so.
Mary Baker Eddy’s understanding of this all-powerful Love once stopped a gunman who had come into her office and aimed a pistol at her (see Yvonne Caché von Fettweis and Robert Townsend Warneck, Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, p. 301). “You cannot shoot,” she said simply to him. His arm fell suddenly and helplessly to his side, and his revolver dropped to the floor. He left without harming her.
Here is proof that the practice of love, as Jesus taught, can literally disarm hatred. While we don’t know exactly how Mrs. Eddy was praying during this experience, she would later write: “Beloved Christian Scientists, keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them. It is plain that nothing can be added to the mind already full. There is no door through which evil can enter, and no space for evil to fill in a mind filled with goodness” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 210).
Evil and animosity in any form would claim to exist and operate in a kind of vacuum—an empty mental space where God, Love, is not present. But there are, in reality, no vacuums in the infinitude of God’s love and light. As the biblical prophet Jeremiah said, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24).
It’s everyone’s nature as God’s child to love, to forgive, to bless, to heal.
Yet if we lose sight of this spiritual fact, we are, in a sense, opening a door for the suggestion of evil and hatred to operate. In one of his parables, Jesus explained, “If the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through” (Luke 12:39).
Most of us shut and lock the doors of our homes, especially at night. In the same way, we can each be alert to our thoughts and refuse to let anything enter that does not align with Love, God. In this way, we will begin to effectively arrest evil thoughts and intentions before they can operate.
A friend of mine has said that he feels Jesus’ teachings about arresting anger can actually stop bullets. This friend once said, “Every time we stop an angry thought, we stop a bullet somewhere in the world.” If we really want to get to the root of violence, we must begin to arrest within ourselves the thoughts behind violence—anger, hatred, intensely willful thoughts and opinions of any kind. The Sermon on the Mount is a road map to the very “mind of Christ,” (I Corinthians 2:16), the Love-filled consciousness that is the basis of all true healing.
As we get to know this spiritual way of thinking better and put it into practice, we'll find that it is utterly natural to us. That’s because it’s everyone’s nature as God’s child to love, to forgive, to bless, to heal. And that’s why it always feels more natural to love others than to hate.
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