Many news reports suggest that the idea of “government” is under attack. The aggression and instability in Ukraine and Syria are examples. In the United States, it can take form as a government stalemate. In our local communities, it may be seen through the uncontrolled fear and/or anger that results in shooting rampages.
These and other events claim that we are trapped by forces beyond our control. Is this actually the case? I think there is a spiritual solution that brings to each of us and our nations true self-government and peace.
In my prayers about self-government, I’ve found this statement from Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures very helpful: “God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self-government, reason, and conscience. Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love” (p. 106).
Instead of having to earn the right to be self-governed, we are already endowed with this ability from God. So in times of challenge—when government at any level seems out of control or ineffective, or we feel separated from God—we can turn to the spiritual fact that God is infinite, ever present, and eternal. The Psalmist’s description of this relationship is very reassuring: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalms 139:7–10).
The Ten Commandments, given to Moses when the children of Israel were making their first steps into self-government, define our relationship to God and to humanity. They may be worded as “thou shalt not,” but since God is our creator, we can also think of them as “this is the way I made you to be”—obedient to God, honest, trustworthy, loving to our fellow men and women. These ideas are repeated in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—love God and your neighbor (see, for example, Matthew 7:12).
The other day I had an opportunity to express self-government. I was feeling very upset, confused, and unsettled. There wasn’t any real reason for me to feel this way. I was praying but not really able to gather my thoughts. Finally I sat down and asked God what to do.
I remember thinking: “If my only job right now is to sit here and give gratitude for all the good I can think of, I’ll do it. You tell me, dear Father. I’m listening.” No earth-shattering idea came, but in a little while I was at peace and felt very close to God’s loving care. The rest of the day was extremely peaceful, liberating, and satisfying.
As I think of it now, I was being governed by the First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).
So, when life seems out of control or the news of the day is shouting that self-government is unattainable or missing, turn to God in prayer and listen for His guidance. It is our inseparable relationship to God that defines our liberty—our freedom to express our full being as children of God. No person, government, or situation can separate us from God. This eternal, unbroken relationship defines and maintains self-government, and it brings peace to us and to the world.
Martha Sarvis is a Christian Science practitioner in Boerne, Texas.
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