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Love your neighbor...even when it's difficult

From the September 15, 2014 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Christ Jesus gave us a tall marching order: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He followed quickly with, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (New Revised Standard Version, Matthew 22:37, 39). And Mary Baker Eddy repeatedly emphasizes the healing power behind those words in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

Being not just a “hearer of the word” but also an actual “doer” is the daily challenge we each take up (James 1:23).

For several weeks this spring our quiet country neighborhood was plagued by youngsters riding loud ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) up, down, and around the lanes and roads near us. I was tempted many times to think angry thoughts about those boys and their machines. 

In quiet prayer (often interrupted by loud motors), I prayed with the Ninth Commandment, which states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16, NRSV), and with Mrs. Eddy’s emphasis on love in her writings. 

In early May, my husband and I were preparing to travel to our annual Christian Science students’ association meeting. After completing last-minute errands, we drove up our driveway and noticed that our shed door, which was kept locked, was ajar. Upon closer inspection, we saw that the lock had been cut off, and two pieces of yard equipment stolen. 

The healing adjustment had taken place in our thoughts.

We saw this as mortal mind, or the “serpent”—the “carnal mind” referred to in the Bible (Romans 8:7)—attempting to get the last word, to distract us and disrupt our harmony before our joyful, important association day. Yet Mrs. Eddy says this of the serpent from the allegorical second chapter of Genesis: “Whence comes a talking, lying serpent to tempt the children of divine Love? … We have nothing in the animal kingdom which represents the species described,—a talking serpent,—and should rejoice that evil, by whatever figure presented, contradicts itself and has neither origin nor support in Truth and good” (Science and Health, p. 529).

My husband and I had some prayerful work to do. We also took steps to secure the shed and the remaining items in it and reported the theft to our town’s deputy sheriff. Some of the mesmerism, the sense of disturbance and anger over the issue, was broken when we realized that the only two items taken were a weed whacker and a leaf blower, both 17 years old. After all, who would benefit from two old pieces of yard gear? It was almost humorous. 

Still, an intrusion had occurred. The sheriff took down all the necessary information, and we went forward with our travel plans, refusing to lose sight of the joy and healing refreshment that the upcoming day of Christian Science teaching would bring to us.

At our association meeting, after a productive and fruitful address by the Christian Science teacher, a quick exercise was given before we concluded. The exercise, in essence, asked us to think about how we would treat the situation if our neighborhood had been victimized by vandals, petty break-ins, and loud vehicles running up and down the streets. My husband and I looked at each other and just had to laugh. Divine Love was giving us a message, and we heard it loud and clear. 

We immediately began prayerfully correcting our negative thoughts toward our neighbors. One really great place to gain a fresh perspective on our neighbors was in Mary Baker Eddy’s Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896 on page 8, where there’s a piece titled “Love Your Enemies.” I began applying an idea from this article to my own thoughts: “We should measure our love for God by our love for man; …” (p. 12). I realized that my love for my neighbors was not proportional to what I thought my love for God was, and I immediately began working to rectify that.

Around a week after the incident, my husband and I opened our door to the morning sun, and there, next to the shed, were the weed whacker and leaf blower. The healing adjustment had taken place in our thoughts, and although we never found out the circumstances of this return, I feel confident that the Christ, or Truth, which we had been opening our thought to in prayer, had touched the individual or individuals who originally had been tempted to steal—a true blessing for all!

When we notified the deputy sheriff to report the returned items, he remarked that in his line of work, that kind of thing just doesn’t happen. But it can, and it does. In the kingdom of God, all God’s children express divine Love, Truth, Principle, and this truth can be demonstrated.

As if the return of our property wasn’t blessing enough, the ATVs stopped running rampant. We then met our neighbors who were moving their son, daughter-in-law, and new baby into their new house, and they laughingly said that if their other grandson began annoying us with his ATV, to just let them know. They ended by inviting us to a fish fry in the near future. Indeed, “… Love is reflected in love; …” (Science and Health, p. 17).

Cathy Partusch lives in Sturgeon, Missouri.

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