How to respond to injustice is a question we all wrestle with at times. When we are unfairly maligned or mistreated, mortal thought presents two choices: We can make an angry counterattack, or knuckle under and become a victim.
Perhaps you, like me, have tried each of those responses at one time or another and found that neither can be counted on for a satisfying resolution. But Christly thought presents another option—to love. Christ Jesus instructed us, “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39).
This teaching is sometimes taken as a recommendation to allow others to walk all over us. But was Jesus a helpless victim? Hardly! His refusal to repay violence with violence honored a higher authority than the vindictive moral code of his time. Jesus triumphed over his enemies not by besting them at their own game but by refusing to play the game at all.
“Judas had the world’s weapons. Jesus had not one of them, and chose not the world’s means of defence,” Mary Baker Eddy explains on page 48 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. “The great demonstrator of Truth and Love was silent before envy and hate. Peter would have smitten the enemies of his Master, but Jesus forbade him, thus rebuking resentment or animal courage. He said: ‘Put up thy sword.’ ”
Love ultimately vanquishes all that stands in its way.
Jesus knew that God, divine Love, is supreme over all, and this consciousness of Love’s power ruled out any response motivated by anger or the desire for revenge. He even resisted the temptation to escape the crucifixion, which would have meant abandoning his mission. Instead, he courageously went forward to accomplish his God-given purpose, knowing that Love ultimately vanquishes all that stands in its way.
What Jesus proved time and again, and what we learn in Christian Science, is that God is in control of His entire creation and governing all relationships in perfect harmony. How could it be otherwise if God is infinite? Once we understand that all power belongs to divine Love, it is clear that the only appropriate response is to love even those who hate us, and let divine justice guide our actions.
Some years ago, while I was employed as a temporary office worker, I had an experience that showed me that Christly love is not only the most effective way to resolve disputes, but it can also turn an encounter that feels rife with injustice into an opportunity for spiritual growth and healing.
For several months I was assigned to work under a manager who was often rude and used anger and intimidation to maintain control over her staff and others in the office. Simply put, she was a bully. Even before I took the job, I knew she had troubled relationships with co-workers, because her wrathful outbursts were legendary around the organization.
Since my assignment required me to work closely with this manager, I found myself a frequent target of her hostility. She was often unreasonable to the point of being abusive. Many times I could have told her so, but I feared that would cost me my job. So I kept silent.
I wondered if I should request a transfer to a different department, but jobs were scarce at the time, and there could be long waiting periods between assignments. This job made better use of my skills than most temp work, and it also provided valuable learning opportunities. So I decided to hang in there.
“It’s only for a few months,” I told myself. “I can take it.” But after several weeks of working with this manager, I came to dread going to work every day, knowing the unpleasantness I would face.
Around this time I began having a painful cramp in my back that caused me to walk and sit hunched over to one side. One morning I woke to find that the pain was worse and had spread up to my neck and shoulders, down my legs, and even to my feet. It was a struggle just to get out of bed. I called a Christian Science practitioner for metaphysical treatment, then spent the rest of the day in bed, praying and studying Science and Health.
The next morning I awoke feeling no better, but I noticed that a statement kept coming insistently to thought: “There is no involuntary action.” I dragged myself out of bed and hobbled to the computer to look up those words in Concord, a computer concordance to the Bible and Mrs. Eddy’s writings.
The words were from Science and Health, in a passage discussing the action of the divine Mind’s counterfeit, mortal mind: “All voluntary, as well as miscalled involuntary, action of the mortal body is governed by this so-called mind, not by matter. There is no involuntary action. The divine Mind includes all action and volition, and man in Science is governed by this Mind. The human mind tries to classify action as voluntary and involuntary, and suffers from the attempt” (p. 187).
I also found this statement on page 160: “Can muscles, bones, blood, and nerves rebel against mind in one instance and not in another, and become cramped despite the mental protest?
“Unless muscles are self-acting at all times, they are never so,—never capable of acting contrary to mental direction.”
These were the angel messages I needed, and as soon as I read them, I felt a little better. I decided to get ready for work, holding to these truths as I took each step. Affirming that God was in complete control of my being, I got on the bus and rode downtown.
Halfway into the bus ride I was still in pain, but I also felt inspired. I sensed that God was with me, guiding and caring for me, and I asked Him to show me what I needed to see to find complete healing.
Suddenly I realized there was one part of my experience that I was still believing was beyond God’s control—my manager’s behavior. I’d been seeing her as separate from divine Love and operating with a mean-spirited volition of her own, outside Love’s authority. I saw then that I did not need to be a helpless victim, either of poor treatment or of poor health. I had a right to enter a prayerful mental protest against both kinds of injustice and find relief, because neither one was supported by God.
Immediately I began to affirm that since God is divine Love and is omnipotent, every one of God’s ideas is under His complete and harmonious government, and all must reflect Love. God’s ideas do not act independently of the divine Mind. Mind produces the action of its own ideas, and divine action must always result in good for all.
Divine action must always result in good for all.
Right away I felt the cramps begin to ease. I continued praying along these lines, and by the time I got to work I was limping only slightly. Throughout the workday I kept returning to the thought that there is no involuntary action. That meant that in reality no one could be made to think, speak, or act in a way contrary to divine Love. By the end of the day I was feeling fine, and I could walk and sit with complete freedom.
That was the end of the physical problem, but it was just the beginning of what was to be a most educational relationship with my manager. She knew that I had worked out this problem through prayer, rather than going to a doctor, and she commented on my quick healing. Then she confided to me that someone close to her was very ill, and the medical prognosis was not good. She was distraught over the prospect of losing this person and was doing all she could to maintain hope and support his recovery.
Over the next few months we had many conversations about spiritual healing, and she began to read widely on the subject, including some issues of the Christian Science Sentinel I offered her. She remarked on several healings she’d read that had resulted from regeneration of character.
This manager’s conduct toward others did not change much at this time, but underneath the bitterness and tough talk I began to glimpse some spiritual qualities I hadn’t seen before, such as hunger for the truth and openness to new ideas. Her behavior seemed to me now as that of a frightened child, and it was much easier to feel compassion for her.
At times when I was tempted to utter an indignant retort or think critical thoughts about her, I stopped myself because I didn’t want to risk breaking the young, bending reed of faith in God that was growing in this woman’s thought.
Instead, when I felt I was being mistreated, I was inspired to speak to her gently about it, and she would always apologize and make an effort to be more considerate. Not only did the workday improve for me, but I felt that each time I stood up for myself in this gentle way, without an emotional reaction, I was helping the manager discover a peaceful, mutually respectful way of relating to others.
By the time I moved on to another temp assignment a few months later, I could feel that our time together had been beneficial for both the manager and me. I was glad I could be there for her when she needed support. And she, in turn, gave me an opportunity to learn how to respond to unjust treatment with confident, healing love, rather than retaliation or submission.
God’s man does not return evil for evil. He is not motivated by pride or fear. He is moved only by divine Love, with the complete assurance that Love triumphs over all.
Access more great content like this
Welcome to JSH-Online, the home of the digital editions of The Christian Science Journal, Sentinel, and Herald. We hope you enjoy the content that has been shared with you. To learn more about JSH-Online visit our Learn More page or Subscribe to receive full access to the entire archive of these periodicals, and to new text and audio content added daily.