When bad things happen, it’s difficult not to ask questions like “Why?” and “How?” “Why would someone do something like that?” “How could someone do something like that?”
On Monday, when an explosion went off at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, I found myself wrestling with those questions all over again. Acts of such cruelty are incomprehensible, and they are calls for our prayers.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the awful behavior we see, we can start rebelling against it.
My first thought in these kinds of situations is always for the people who’ve lost loved ones. My heart reaches out in prayer for them—that they can feel something of the touch of God’s love, something of His comfort. That in the presence of that divine comfort, they can begin to find a release from grief and a way to go forward.
There’s also another demand on all of us when an incident like this happens: that we keep praying for our world until we see an end to these kinds of terrorist acts. That might sound almost impossible, but I’ve been learning that there’s somewhere we can start. It has to do with knowing in a deep way who each of us really is—who we are as God’s image.
Now, I’ve heard this spiritual fact that “man is made in the image and likeness of God” many, many times before, and you probably have, too (see Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 475). It’s pretty fundamental to Christian Science. But what does that really mean in practice?
For me, it helps to break things down. So, if man is the image of God, then man—meaning the true, spiritual identity of each of us—must be like the original. Is the original rude or unkind? No. Those aren’t qualities of a purely good God. Is the original evil, or a monster? Definitely not. The Bible tells us, “God is love” (I John 4:8). And because there is only one God, there can be only one man: “the image, of Love” as Mary Baker Eddy explains in Science and Health (p. 475).
OK, I know that’s a lot to accept, especially when we see the terrible effects of someone’s actions. And I don’t say it lightly, or as a way to let someone off the hook. This isn’t a free pass or a way to excuse wrongdoing. But it is a way to get us all thinking and praying in a manner that can help the world. Because when we accept the idea that there is only one man—the man God created as pure, innocent, and good—then instead of being overwhelmed by the awful behavior we see, we can start rebelling against that behavior. Right in the face of someone acting unkind or cruel, we can mentally insist that we aren’t fooled: We know the man God created, and there is only that man.
That’s what Jesus did when he encountered everyone from people making bad choices to career criminals: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy” (Science and Health, pp. 476–477).
I love that reminder: “man is pure and holy.” Not always easy to see. Even more difficult to accept. But healing? Yes, Jesus proved that this view wasn’t just something to help us feel better, but that it actually has a transformative effect—that it can reveal the powerlessness and unreality of evil and the power and reality of good alone.
I want to defend the man God created so that we can see this real man everywhere.
So that’s what I’m knowing for the world in the aftermath of this latest attack. Instead of getting sucked into my usual line of questioning, including “Why?” and “How?” I’m doing my best to pray from the standpoint that there is only one man—God’s image. The image of Love, not the image of hate. And I’m trying my hardest to listen to God’s messages, which keep telling me that I don’t want to believe a lie about man. I want to defend the man God created so that we can see this real man, this image of Love, everywhere, and find our sister- and brotherhood as God’s children, free of any evil tendencies.
We all want to experience this brotherhood. We all want to see an end to hatred and violence. So as we reach out with love in prayer for the people of Manchester, we can also reach out with strength for our world and commit to seeing this real man in everyone. I know, just from the small incidents in my own life when I’ve come face to face with the mask of cruelty or unkindness, that knowing with all my heart that there’s only one man, spiritual and pure, does have a healing effect. And it has the power to touch everyone, everywhere.