Healing abuses of power
I was working for a senior partner at a large Washington law firm that was all about hierarchies and who held the most power. Getting ahead was determined by who you knew and who liked your work.
This partner was known for having a terrible temper. Anyone who disagreed with or crossed him could be fired, or at least find their career in danger. He had given me a large case to prepare for trial, and I was working long hours. Since I was doing all the work and needed this type of experience, it seemed only fair that I be allowed to present the case in court. But as the date of the trial drew near, this partner successively took more and more parts of the trial away from me. One day, he took the last piece, which meant I would not be able to take part in the actual trial of the case I’d worked so hard on.
After receiving this news, I went back to my office and shut the door. The senior partner’s actions were so unfair. But I felt there was nothing I could do. The incentive to continue working the long hours necessary to completing preparation for this trial drained out of me. I was desperate. I turned to God in prayer, asking Him to help me.
I thought of this part of Christ Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Because we are made in the image of a God who is entirely good, we are not made to abuse power or to harm one another.
Do good to those who are abusing you? Be unselfish and kind to someone who is taking advantage of you? Wouldn’t this have the effect of perpetuating rather than remedying power imbalances and resulting injustices?
But Jesus triumphed spectacularly over the great powers of his day and the injustices they imposed on his life and career. He understood in God a higher source of power that rights injustices and brings healing and restoration. Could following Jesus’ example bring healing to me in this situation? Would it bring the comfort I longed for?
I asked myself, Who controls my career, anyway? The Bible teaches, “God has spoken once, twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God” (Psalms 62:11, New King James Version). I realized that God is in charge of my career. And that brought great relief.
God is a God of justice and mercy whom I knew I could trust with my career. I reminded myself that my goal wasn’t to satisfy personal ambition, but to glorify God in the highest way I could. I knew that right channels for progress would open up if I trusted God and lived in obedience to His precepts.
A startling thought came to me: Loving your neighbor as yourself doesn’t mean loving the awful qualities.
After much praying, I could honestly say that it didn’t matter to me who did the trial, and I was OK with the thought of the senior partner doing it. This didn’t feel like accepting defeat or giving up. Instead, it felt like yielding to God’s goodness and allness and trusting God’s control of my life and career. Emulating the unselfishness and kindness Christ Jesus taught and practiced and affirming my faith in the divine power and goodness brought me a great sense of peace and release.
As I continued praying, a startling thought came to me: Loving your neighbor as yourself doesn’t mean loving the awful qualities. It doesn’t mean letting yourself be flattened by a steamroller! Loving your neighbor as yourself means seeing your neighbor as God sees them and recognizing their Godlike qualities. This, after all, is how Jesus loved and healed. He separated the bad qualities from the individual and saw everyone’s true spiritual identity, made in the image and likeness of God. This brought healing.
This concept of the true meaning of loving my neighbor was a new thought to me, and it caught my attention. I prayed to see the senior partner as God saw him—unselfish, kind, and good, reflecting the same divine Mind, God, that I reflect.
The Bible tells us that we are made in the image of God (see Genesis 1:27). Because we are made in the image of a God who is entirely good, we are not made to abuse power or to harm one another. Such actions can’t stand when met with healing prayer. Truly honoring God’s goodness and power and understanding that God is the only cause and creator enables us to bring these healing truths to bear in our own lives, and to help those around us, too.
After I had prayed along these lines, the thought came, “You need to do this trial. Go tell the senior partner that you need to do this trial.” I felt this instruction was divinely inspired, but I thought, “Are you sure, God? This is the man who blows up and throws people out of his office over little things—and this isn’t a little thing!” But I realized I needed to be willing to stand with my convictions—with my newfound understanding of what it really means to love my neighbor as myself, and with the clearer understanding that the power in this relationship (and in all relationships) is with God and His goodness.
I waited until I was very sure, and then I went and told this partner that I needed to do the trial. He looked startled. Then he said, “You know, you’re right.”
A few weeks later, I learned from another partner that this was the first time in this man’s entire career as a senior partner that he had not taken all the high profile work for himself and away from the younger lawyers. I was so grateful for this clear evidence that understanding the truth about power—that it is of God, and so must include justice and mercy—and truly loving our neighbor enables us to witness deep and meaningful healing for those on both sides of a conflict.
The Christ, the correcting and redeeming activity of divine Truth and Love that Jesus so effectively demonstrated, is here today to correct and redeem instances of power abuse and injustice around the world as well as in our own lives.
Christian Science teaches that God’s goodness and power operate as divine law. The government of Life, Truth, and Love is supreme. There is no place where the light of God’s healing love does not shine. As God’s image, men and women reflect the goodness, the principled action and thought, and the unselfishness and kindness of God’s nature.
A hymn from the Christian Science Hymnal teaches God’s redeeming and restoring activity, which is available to all today:
God comes, with succor speedy,
To those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy,
And bid the weak be strong;
He comes to break oppression,
To set the captive free,
To take away transgression,
And rule in equity.
(James Montgomery, adapt.
© CSBD, No. 75)
It takes courage, strength, and conviction to demonstrate these truths in a world that often seems to be based on quite different premises. However, the opportunity to bring healing to the world through our prayers holds the greatest promise for the happiness and prosperity of humanity.