These days, public discourse can be enormously frustrating.
Of course, people have always thought they were right. That’s the nature of human opinion. But today we have more tools than ever before to make our case in “proving” we’re right. We have social media feeds that exclude other voices, we have online blogs and news sites that justify our worldviews, and we have an on-demand culture designed to give us exactly what we want when we want it. We can cite chapter and verse to argue that those who don’t agree are deluded or naive or just plain stubborn.
This trend in the way we talk to one another goes to the heart of some of our biggest challenges as a society.
It really comes down to this: If we’re at odds with someone who has a different way of thinking, what do we do? Do we push harder? Do we assume that the problem is one that can be solved intellectually—by force of argument or sheer will? We may feel we just want an “easy button”—the ability to post one fabulous article to Facebook or make one brilliant argument to a colleague and then see the scales fall from the eyes of those on the “other side.”
Humility before God paves the way for peaceful, productive discourse.
But that’s not what we learn from the most inspired examples of the Bible. Instead, we can learn of the inestimable power of divine grace. Divine grace gives us the ability of waiting patiently on God and with complete assurance that God is in fact supreme and “working His purpose out,” as Hymn 82 in the Christian Science Hymnal declares (Arthur C. Ainger). Humility before God and a radical trust and understanding that His will is good pave the way for peaceful, productive discourse. It takes willfulness out of the equation and brings God’s goodness to the forefront of thought. And in even the most extreme trials, it heals.
Take Ananias. How did he persuade Saul, persecutor of the early followers of Christ Jesus, to have a change of heart and become their greatest advocate? He didn’t. He surrendered to God’s grace, and this allowed him to heal Saul’s blindness, which paved the way to Saul’s transformation (see Acts 9:10–22).
Or what about Daniel? How did he persuade King Darius that the king had been tricked into creating an unjust law? He didn’t. Daniel was thrown right into that lions’ den. But God’s grace strengthened him against any sense of self-righteousness or pity, and the lions’ mouths stayed closed (see Daniel 6:10–23).
Grace is as powerful and practical as it is real and divine.
How about Jesus? How did he persuade Pilate not to crucify him? He didn’t. The crucifixion went on. But Jesus’ unparalleled understanding of God’s grace gave him a deep sense of humility, and the attempt to destroy him instead became the greatest victory the world has ever known. Through his resurrection Jesus offered evidence, in the most profound way possible, of how God’s love alone can sustain us through even the worst claims of divisiveness and hatred. The founder of this magazine, Mary Baker Eddy, once wrote, “The efficacy of the crucifixion lay in the practical affection and goodness it demonstrated for mankind” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 24). Grace is as powerful and practical as it is real and divine.
Indeed, Christianity is in many ways about showing how God’s grace fosters harmony. As we learn that we cannot lose with God, we learn something of our true identity in divine Spirit. We come to see that we are spiritual, God’s children, and that harmony is not established on the basis of human personality. It comes from God’s infinitely good nature and our reflection of it. “In him we live, and move, and have our being,” Paul said (Acts 17:28).
Proportionately as public conversations regain a measure of grace, they become less divisive and intractable. An appeal to intellect often comes from seeing deficiencies in others. But the grace of Christ naturally attracts each one of us to draw the best out of ourselves and others.
For Ananias and Daniel and Jesus, the standard was not human deficiency, but divine perfection. Their faith in the power of grace wrought what seemed to be miracles but were in fact God’s goodness being made manifest. That blessing of grace is just as present and powerful today as it was then.
Adapted from the May 17, 2017, Christian Science Daily Lift podcast.