Finding our safety in God’s authority
Like many, I’ve thought a good deal about recent harassment and abuse allegations swirling around high-profile figures. In particular, my heart has gone out to those, including friends, who have made known their own subjection to such illicit behavior through the #MeToo hashtag campaign.
As it became clearer to me that abuse of authority was such a key part of the issue, I thought about the question of the power we yield to. It can seem as though our options are limited to either benefiting from honorable uses of human power or suffering from its abuse. But the Bible shows us that we can understand and experience a power that is more than human; it is divine. And to the degree we become conscious of this divine power, we’re placing ourselves under an authority that has no other authority above it or even competing with it. Under this divine authority, which is God’s law of good, we lose our sense of being at the mercy of the negative thoughts and action of others and so become a law to ourselves, finding safety in God’s ever-present power.
Admittedly, it doesn’t seem like such a benign power is at the helm of our lives as one exposure of wrongdoing after another emerges, especially for those directly harmed by the wrong done. But what if there were chinks of light in the history of #MeToo darkness pointing to a transformative power experienced by at least some?
For instance, after being introduced to Christian Science I started attending Wednesday evening testimony meetings in a Church of Christ, Scientist, where experiences of healing were shared. I remember being particularly moved one night when a woman related her gratitude for protection experienced when a male acquaintance locked a door behind them and started to aggressively force himself on her. Instead of either physically resisting the assault or resigning to it, the woman prayerfully turned to God’s presence and power. That steered her thought away from fear and anger to a very different mental standpoint in which she glimpsed the true nature of man as God’s expression. Despite what was happening, she saw how this true idea of man included the attacker. At that point, the atmosphere in the room changed. My friend’s acquaintance backed off, apologized, unlocked the door, and let her leave.
I’ve since read similar testimonies in the Christian Science magazines published by The Christian Science Publishing Society. I’ve also read accounts of those subjected to harassment or assault winning full freedom from emotional scars. This has involved hard-fought journeys of spiritual growth and didn’t ignore the need to bring to justice those abusing the authority of their position. But, step by step, those writing these experiences reached the same spiritual vantage point my friend attained in her moment of need, that of seeing everyone’s identity as God-created and God-governed.
To me, these accounts evidence a key assurance in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Evil is not supreme; good is not helpless; nor are the so-called laws of matter primary, and the law of Spirit secondary” (p. 207 ).
It’s within the opposite framework of believing man separate from God—governed by material rather than spiritual law—that abuse of authority and the sense of powerlessness it seeks to instill play out. Throughout its pages, Science and Health makes plain that Spirit’s law is the only law and explains how that renders evil powerless. Christ Jesus proved this by restoring health through spiritual understanding alone and by inspiring many to reform their character, showing our true safety and sinlessness as offspring of divine Spirit.
The Bible shows us that we can understand and experience a power that is more than human; it is divine.
Knowing everyone’s true being as God’s child, subject solely to the authority of spiritual law, can also help others. In The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Mary Baker Eddy emphasizes a need to keep our mind filled with Truth and Love, which are synonyms for God. Clothed in the “impervious armor” of such spiritual thinking, she says, “… not only yourselves are safe, but all whom your thoughts rest upon are thereby benefited” (p. 210 ).
Such God-conscious thinking glows in the mental atmosphere of material darkness like a lamp set on a lampstand to give light to all in the house, as Jesus said (see Matthew 5:15, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English). Such spiritual thinking uncovers the illusive material sense that claims to veil our reflection of God’s glorious light and enables us to increasingly relinquish this false sense. As this unveiled, God-reflecting light shines, it illumines an inherent moral sense in society that forwards justice. And it brings to light the spiritual sense within us that resists the role of either victim or culprit. Of course, there’s a clear distinction between the human culpability of a predatory thought and the blamelessness of its perceived prey. But, spiritually seen, every one of us needs to, and can, progressively rise above any underlying claim of being subject to an influence apart from God.
A scriptural example of the spiritual resolve not to concede to any power but God’s is the story of a male servant refusing to yield to harassment by his master’s wife (see Genesis 39:7–20 ). Joseph’s refusal to bow to pressure led to the fate so many fear in such circumstances. He lost his job and was subject to false accusations of being the harasser, which landed him in prison. Yet his unwavering commitment to act in the way God was pointing out didn’t go unrewarded. His prison experience became the springboard to a position of authority that earned Joseph great respect and enabled him to forestall the impact of a regional drought, thus saving countless lives, including those of his family.
Similarly, we can help turn the tide on the experience of human authority. To the degree we understand and evidence that there’s but one power to yield to, God’s power, we become a law to ourselves and bring to light in our lives Love’s divine authority, protecting one and all.