What does love have to do with ending a pandemic?
By the time I arrived at my apartment, the only thing I could do was collapse on my bed. I was suffering from a variety of flu symptoms and desperately wanted to go to sleep. But before I did, I called my mom and asked her to pray for me.
This was nearly 25 years ago, and I don’t recall all the details of our conversation. I do remember, however, how comforted I felt as Mom assured me that I had been made in the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26, 27); that God, divine Spirit, was both the source and substance of my being; that God loved me.
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Shortly after hanging up, I fell asleep. When I got up the next morning, I was completely well and have never since had the flu.
Looking at this experience in the context of the current pandemic, I’ve been asking myself if it’s not only our love for God and a deeper appreciation of His love for us that hold the key to ridding the world of this disease, but also a more consistent commitment to love one another—that is, to be sure that our thoughts of others reflect God’s thought of us. Jesus said: “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matthew 22:37–39, New Living Translation).
What’s required of us is to see others and ourselves as Love’s essential expression, naturally and inevitably inclined to love.
The commitment to love others can be seen these days in the selflessness of frontline workers providing essential services to their communities and in the kindness of neighbors helping neighbors. Yet, how often do we think of these and so many other expressions of love as hinting at something even more powerful—powerful enough to bring about physical healing? Jesus certainly proved time and again through his healing of others that there’s a love higher than even the most unselfish human love, a love that mirrors God’s love for us—pure, constant, and unconditional. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, knew this too, writing in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God,—a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love” (p. 1).
Of course, conventional wisdom would argue that it’s going to take a lot more than a group hug, no matter how heartfelt, to rid ourselves of something as challenging as a pandemic. I would agree. But conventional wisdom is also reluctant to recognize the mental nature of disease—to acknowledge the significance of Jesus’ practical demonstration and Mrs. Eddy’s explanation of that Christly love that strives to see only the goodness that God, good, sees. After all, if “unselfed love” heals disease, then it stands to reason that any opposite state of mind, such as fear, anger, hostility, and so on, would tend to precipitate disease—or rather, present itself physically as disease, as Christian Science teaches. Conventional wisdom also refuses outright to admit the all-power of God, divine Love, to heal disease.
What’s required of us, then, is to not only acknowledge Love’s allness as the ultimate antidote to disease but also to see others and ourselves as Love’s essential expression, naturally and inevitably inclined to love. As it says in the Bible, “We love because [God] first loved us” (I John 4:19, New Revised Standard Version).
This doesn’t mean that loving others is always easy. For instance, there are times when we find ourselves falling for the devilish lie that someone or some circumstance—our neighbors, our coworkers, our politicians, a pandemic—has somehow managed to deprive us of God’s goodness; that there’s some legitimate reason for our being unable to express all that God has given us to express, to enjoy all that He has given us to enjoy. When this happens, we face a crucial choice between accepting or rejecting the notion of a power opposed to God.
Ironically, it’s at moments like this that we are perhaps most receptive to Truth, a synonym for God that Mary Baker Eddy in her writings often couples with Christ. It’s this ever-present Christ, “the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness,” as Science and Health describes it (p. 332), that reveals God, divine Love, as the only true power. We especially need to know this in regard to the powerlessness of hatred, a state of thought that Mrs. Eddy associates with the virulent nature of contagious disease. Her Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896 emphatically states, “… Hate no one; for hatred is a plague-spot that spreads its virus and kills at last. If indulged, it masters us; brings suffering upon suffering to its possessor, throughout time and beyond the grave” (p. 12).
Whether we feel a temptation to hate other people or are seeing hatred in others, this claim of a power apart from God needs to be met head on, and it’s the Christ that inspires us to do just that: to distinguish between what is and isn’t true about God and about all of us as His reflection; to love not just those who love us, but our so-called enemies as well; to become more conscious of the allness of that divine Love that heals, and as a result, to prayerfully and effectively address the world’s suffering.
Thinking back on my own healing so many years ago, I’m reminded that the conviction of God’s love for us is often what motivates our love for one another. And on the flip side, it’s our love for one another that opens the door more widely to feeling God’s love for us. This ceaseless cycle of Love—“Love is reflected in love,” as Mrs. Eddy puts it (Science and Health, p. 17)—inevitably lessens fear, dissolves hatred, and enables us to do our part in bringing an end to this pandemic.
Eric D. Nelson
Guest Editorial Writer