Jesus starts his healing ministry by calling out, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). His urging is valid for everyone and all time. The power behind Jesus’ call is the all-embracing love of God.
For centuries, Christian theology has focused on the need of humans to change their ways in order to be worthy of God’s grace. Yet this is only one side of the coin. Let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (see Luke 15:11–32), which talks about the unchanging nature of God as much as about the need for human repentance.
Most interpretations of the parable focus on the actions of the younger brother. He takes his inheritance and leaves, screws up his life, then returns home and is joyfully welcomed back as a son of the house. One may assume that the steadiness of the father’s love for his son is the reason comparatively little attention has been given in Bible commentaries to the father in the parable. He stays at home and stays the same—before, during, and after the younger son’s wanderings. From a literary point of view, there’s not much to talk about.
God loves, and we love back.
Yet here is the key to the story: The father in the parable remains undisturbed. He doesn’t follow his younger son into the labyrinth of his own undoing. Instead, his love is an active draw, as evident in the father’s running to meet his son, commanding a feast, and proclaiming his joy: “Let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (verses 23, 24). In short, the father is not simply waiting for the son to return. He actively maintains home as an appealing place to come back to. Like a warm oven on a cold winter night, it attracts naturally. The father wants the son to come home.
Isn’t love, then, the reason the son repents and returns? And doesn’t this story portray the powerful pull God’s love has on each of us?
I caught a glimpse of the irresistible attraction of divine Love a few months ago. I went to pick up a package that was deposited for me in a nearby photography studio. When I opened the door, a little dog slipped out and ran away up the street. The photographer and one of her assistants tried to follow it, but they couldn’t catch up. The dog ran across an intersection and was gone.
I felt terrible. Since it was I who had opened the door and let the dog out, I felt responsible for losing a family’s pet. To make things worse, the dog was only a guest in the studio that day, so it was in unfamiliar territory—and the studio owner had the tough task of telling the dog’s owner her beloved pet was lost.
I went back to my home right above the studio, yearning to help. I became quiet and listened for Love’s gentle guidance. What did I need to understand? And in the quiet, I acknowledged that there was a spiritual solution at hand, but to see it I needed a clear, God-centered perspective.
I took a box of chocolates for the owner and went back to the studio, asking her for permission to stay, and she agreed. While she worked quietly, I prayed. Bowing silently before the spiritual law of harmony, I stood facing the large window looking out onto the street. As I contemplated Love’s all-encompassing embrace, which holds each spiritual idea in the perfect place, I could feel that Love does care about its ideas. After all, Love has nothing else to do, every moment, but to be Love, caring for all creation. I stepped mentally out of the guilt story into divine reality. I felt Love’s power as a home—a home for all creation, a home for a little dog. Gratitude and joy flooded my heart.
A few minutes later, guess who showed up on the doorstep—the sweet little dog, asking me with her beautiful eyes to open the door for her. There were tears of joy—and cries of joy over the phone as the studio owner informed the dog owner.
Spiritual attraction and power
When feeling the power of divine Love—so much deeper and more potent than any human sense to make things right—I glimpsed something of the fundamental fact described beautifully in this passage: “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). The transforming power of divine Love is expressed in that simple and profound statement. God loves, and we love back.
But human thought must yield to the divine. And its fierce opposition is not to be taken lightly. St. Paul, knowing all about this pull in the opposite direction, doesn’t mince words: “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:22, 23, English Standard Version).
Mary Baker Eddy referred to this opposition to our innate attraction to God as “animal magnetism,” the aggressive mental allure that distorts our view of goodness, making Spirit irrelevant and matter the sole base of being. Everything that instills the conviction that life is self-organized matter draws us away from Spirit, and this mortal pull is, in Paul’s words, “waging war” against Spirit, against our oneness with God.
In reality, though, divine Love is the only power—and as we give up the belief in any opposing power, we gravitate naturally toward Love, Spirit. Once the son in the parable realized that the promises of matter were empty and had led to his downfall, he remembered his father’s goodness and humbly headed home.
Likewise, our thought must acknowledge that we have a home in God—and that we would be lost without it; but we can’t be without it, because we live in God, infinite Spirit. As we wake to this truth, we can distinguish spiritual intuitions, which guide us to the realm of the real.
God wants us to know His perfection and peace. “I loved you yesterday, I love you still, I always have, I always will”—a sweet quote found in friendship books—captures the essence of God’s love for each of us. Just as we might say that it is natural for Principle to be and for Mind to know, I have come to pray with the thought that it is natural for Love to will—to will our eternal purity and perfection as its image and likeness. Love’s will is the central will of the universe—the only will there is. When we give up the false sense of a separate human will and kneel before the divine will, we share the blessing described in Hymn 73:
Lo, He speaks, all condemnation ending,
Every true desire with Love’s will blending;
Losing self, in Him we find
Joy, health, hope, for all mankind.
(Christian Science Hymnal)
The effect of Love’s will
After a physical breakdown in 2005, when I was fading in and out of consciousness for several days, I sensed divine Love drawing me out of this dream of incapacitation, fear, and weakness (see “My unbroken link to God,” Sentinel, August 17, 2009). I felt the deep comfort of God as a caring power, bringing me out of sickness and darkness into the light of health and peace.
I sensed something that Mrs. Eddy expresses beautifully in her Message to The Mother Church for 1902: “Spiritual love makes man conscious that God is his Father, and the consciousness of God as Love gives man power with untold furtherance. Then God becomes to him the All-presence—quenching sin; the All-power—giving life, health, holiness; the All-science—all law and gospel” (pp. 8–9). In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she writes, “If man’s spiritual gravitation and attraction to one Father, in whom we ‘live, and move, and have our being,’ should be lost, and if man should be governed by corporeality instead of divine Principle, by body instead of by Soul, man would be annihilated” (p. 536).
Man’s attraction to divine Love is eternal, and when we yield to it, the effect is constant progress and betterment. Everything progressive and liberating has its source in Love’s omni-action, which never leaves us in a stagnant or retrogressive spot. The consciousness of Love brings good to light in human experience, gently leading the strayed, maintaining our individuality, filling our solitude, and unfolding healing and balance. From a spiritual perspective, the opportunities to experience Love’s power are unbounded. As Mrs. Eddy writes on page 158 of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, “We live in an age of Love’s divine adventure to be All-in-all.”