The view beyond division
When one is delving into the Bible, it’s inspiring to read of the healings and wisdom that attended the spiritual lives of those it highlights. But something else stands out about those living such spiritual lives—how gracious they could remain under trying circumstances.
Take King David, for instance. When I first read the story of this shepherd boy’s rise to become ruler of Israel and Judah, I was moved by how he responded under duress. He refused to take the life of King Saul, who was pursuing him to kill him (see I Samuel 24:1–7 ); backed out of a plan to take revenge on a man whose actions had enraged him (see I Samuel 25:1–35 ); and bestowed on the defeated Saul’s grandson the honor of eating daily at the king’s table (see II Samuel 9:1–13 ).
This wasn’t just good manners. These were instances of the spiritual largess that loves despite antagonism. Centuries before Christ Jesus’ crucifixion, David must have gleaned something of what the Savior would so vividly prove by forgiving those crucifying him—that our enemy is never really a person or a group of people. Why not? Because there is one infinite God, Spirit, and as God’s children or spiritual ideas, we forever truly reflect the divine oneness. So our real foe is a mistaken, material conception of ourselves and our creator—the mortal viewpoint that believes we can be divided from our divine source and consequently from each other.
Seeing this helped me when a friendship hit a wall as priorities diverged when my life became more Spirit-centered. We went from movie-going, café-hopping buddies to encountering each other only at gatherings organized by mutual friends. I put the rift down to my friend’s hostility toward my chosen way of life. But was that truly the cause of the division, or did it go deeper than that?
One day, after a couple of years of this, the counsel “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10) came to me. As I got mentally quiet and affirmed that God was God—the one and only presence, power, and Mind—that faltering friendship came to thought. In the clarity of glimpsing divine Mind’s ever-present, benign control, I saw the unbreakable spiritual bond between us. And I saw how resigning myself to apparent alienation was consenting to the belief that this true, eternal bond could be at the mercy of the temporal source of thought the Bible calls the carnal mind—or the suppositional “mortal mind,” as Christian Science Founder Mary Baker Eddy puts it (see Unity of Good, p. 32 ).
In my prayerful stillness I grasped that. I saw how unspiritual thinking had no genuine existence by which to prevent us from perceiving, and responding to, the unifying leadings of infinite Love, and all sense of division between us lost hold on my thought.
The next day the phone rang. It was my friend, inviting me for a meal and a movie. The relationship was back on track.
Taking time for this kind of stillness that has not only a calming but also a healing impact is perhaps more needed now than ever, as a sense of the normalcy of being at loggerheads urges itself upon us daily. Twenty-four-hour news and a flow of political social media postings—including finger-pointing half-truths and outright lies—paint a portrait of not just divided nations and a fractured world, but of fierce enmity within and across borders.
I saw how unspiritual thinking had no genuine existence by which to prevent us from perceiving, and responding to, the unifying leadings of infinite Love.
Faced with this, we can make a difference. We can not only diligently fact check what we read, hear, and circulate, but, more crucially, we can also actively seek our perception of what’s truly going on from Truth itself. Divine Truth, God, knows and reveals only one kind of individual—made in His image, as the Bible says. And we can refute the thought that anyone can be less than that Spirit-reflecting man or woman. From this vantage point, we can progressively lose our sense of others being enemies, as the Christ—the spirit of love behind Jesus’ healing works—is always urging us to do. We can aspire to demonstrate the Christianly scientific understanding of Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies!” (Luke 6:35, New Living Translation). As Mrs. Eddy writes: “ ‘Love thine enemies’ is identical with ‘Thou hast no enemies’ ” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 9 ).
To truly know we have no enemies includes identifying, and freeing ourselves from, any tacit agreement with the opposite belief that disunity has “legitimate sources”—to quote a phrase Mrs. Eddy used, when referring to discord among students of Christian Science.
Writing that she was “sorry, sorry to learn of the discord among students who are acquiring the science of harmony,” and opining that “they never can demonstrate the Principle that heals while in the error of discord” she added: “If only they knew the cause and did not conclude it sprang from legitimate sources they would master this error” (L12804 to Caroline W. Frame, January 5, 1888, © The Mary Baker Eddy Collection, The Mary Baker Eddy Library).
Clearly, Mrs. Eddy wasn’t seeing these factions as enemies of each other but as being set against one another by a common foe. What the Christian Scientists assumed were the sources of the disagreement among them was actually the outcome of the influence on them of the carnal mind’s hatred of the very Truth they shared in common.
Perhaps this alerts us today to conscientiously refuse to let mortal mind convince us of the necessity, legitimacy, or even the reality of division. In church, family, and the wider world, we can prayerfully see through the sense of division to this suppositional mind claiming to foment it. And then we can see beyond that to the unifying Truth that negates the carnal mind’s claim and shows us what we always really are—the children of “one Father with His universal family, held in the gospel of Love” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 577 ).