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God’s extravagant love

From the October 12, 2020 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

For some weeks the beginning of a widely beloved verse from the Bible had been ringing in my thought: “God so loved the world” (John 3:16). 

I’ve found the Bible to be a record of humanity’s search for God, and at the same time, God’s revealing of Himself, teaching us what He is. 

Thinking more about that Bible message, I was assured that God’s love includes all of humanity, everyone, without partiality. It’s universal and, most importantly, freely given—no strings attached. This love of God is the “in earth, as it is in heaven” promise of the Lord’s Prayer that Christ Jesus taught (see Matthew 6:9–13). 

Yes, God loves the world. And I felt strongly that I’d been given this Bible message with a clear assignment: I needed to see that God does indeed love the whole world—all the folks in the news, in my neighborhood, at all levels of government, and so on. God’s love is given one to one, and is practical and effective in saving, guiding, and healing today.

This statement is as true for all now as when it was first shared by the prophet Malachi: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, . . . and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10). It’s important to recognize the fullness, the richness, the trustworthiness of divine promises. 

It’s important to recognize the fullness, the richness, the trustworthiness of divine promises.

A friend shared a story with me that illustrates both the bounty and precision of God’s, divine Love’s, “in earth, as it is in heaven” provision. Her mom had ten children, and my friend was one of the oldest. One day her mom came home with Brussels sprouts for dinner. My friend asked, “Why did you get Brussels sprouts? No one likes them but me.” Her mom said, “Because I love you.” God’s love always includes whatever special “Brussels sprouts” we need.

The love of God is infinite, extravagant. When observing what appears as a grim reality gripping the world, it might seem totally absurd to believe that God is indeed loving us. However, as with all healing prayer, affirming the spiritual reality—the fact of God’s power, presence, and perfect government—does have an impact on the here and now of daily life. Human experience becomes more and more in line with divine reality.

The spiritual fact that God is loving the world became my daily prayer and a point of much gratitude. But it was soon obvious to me that I needed to be equally convinced that the presence and authority of God’s love would disarm anger and hatred, the opposite of Love. The Bible calls out evil thinking and acting as the influence of the “carnal mind” (Romans 8:7), which promotes thinking and behavior that are not Godlike, and so not natural to the man or woman God made. 

God made each individual after Himself, the one Spirit. And that spirit of God, dwelling in us, is showing us what we are as children of God—children who are never separated from the love of Christ and its tender teaching message. The Christ message not only identifies us as the beloved of God, but also teaches us how to express Christly qualities. The saving Christ is at work in human consciousness, transforming both thought and action.

The saving Christ is at work in human consciousness.

Daily I was affirming that this love of God, the Christ at work, would check any carnal mind effort to influence someone and push them into thinking or acting in a way contrary to God’s love. And then came a modest experience that illustrated this concept.

A neighbor had invited me to pick some of her peonies, and while I was putting them in a vase to enjoy in my home, a wasp flew out of one of the blooms. I decided to take the wasp outside to free it. However, as I was doing so, the wasp stung me on my thumb. My instant response was anger and a strong impulse to destroy the wasp. But then very quickly, the anger was replaced by calm and the desire to take the wasp outside as originally intended. I did so. 

At first, I was disturbed that anger and a desire for retaliation had been my initial response. But I soon saw that fixating on my initial reaction would keep me tangled in the anger. That’s one of the carnal mind’s traps. To mull over material circumstances is to stay in the material story and not find the healing.

Instead, the message I got was: “Look how quickly divine Love dissolved the anger. See how swiftly it was replaced with the normal, calm act of loving.” That recognition was the basis of my prayer for myself as I dealt with some pain, swelling, and red streaks moving up my arm from the sting on my thumb. I realized that no matter what poison or anger or even hatred we are dealing with, it is of no consequence, given the presence and power of God’s love to protect and save. We can trust the spiritual fact that, as Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy states, “human hate has no legitimate mandate and no kingdom. Love is enthroned” (p. 454). 

The immediacy of love replacing the anger in my own thought provided a certainty of the larger spiritual reality. Love thoroughly disarms—destroys—hatred. Or rather, because God is infinite Love, there is no presence or action of hatred at all. And just as this powerful spiritual fact was being made clear to me, that same Love was also at work in all of human consciousness, countering hatred and its effects. Shortly, the pain and red streaks on my arm disappeared. Within a day, the swelling also disappeared, and my hand functioned normally.

As I look back, I think it was important that my prayers went beyond what seemed to be the obvious and immediate need and went deeper, to get to the root. (It’s a bit like dealing with dandelions: To take off the flowering top and not remove the root is ineffective. The dandelion grows right back!) To pray only about the pain and inflammation on my arm wasn’t enough. I needed to revisit those spiritual facts about the unopposed power of God’s love and see the consequent impossibility of poison and anger. 

I’ve been continuing my assignment of daily realizing and affirming that God loves the world. Such prayer is necessary for us all.

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