There are indications, at least in my neighborhood, that criminal behavior is tolerated beyond reason. It's not unusual to see a car parked on my street with a sign prominently displayed in the side window: ''No radio.'' Petty thieves have become so adept at stealing car stereos that some residents have taken their radios out and then engaged criminals in a dialogue to dissuade them from needlessly breaking into the vehicle.
This may not be a major crime problem, but it has made me think of some deeper implications. Where do we draw the line on lawlessness? At what point do we say, ''This is inhuman, intolerable''? If we throw up our hands helplessly and give in to crime, what are the consequences?
The teachings of Christian Science give us some helpful ideas on halting criminal activity. One of them is the Biblically based truth that every one of God's children is innately good, the image of his Maker (see Genesis 1:27). This often seems far from the fact. But we can begin to discern the actual, purely good nature of man through spiritual intuition, spiritual vision, which looks beyond mere physical appearances.
That sounds fine, you say, but what about those people who keep stealing what doesn't belong to them? The Bible says, ''God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.'' n1
n1 Ecclesiastes 7:29.
We might say that some among us have strayed from our God-given goodness. Through ignorance or malicious intent, some have rejected their essential God-bestowed righteousness.
Yet the fact remains that each of God's children is eternally good. This spiritual fact gives us courage to face crime fearlessly and contribute to its decline. Because man is God-created, it's not inevitable that thievery go on forever. We needn't feel helpless.
What will help transform those caught in a life of crime? Perhaps more faith on our part, more trust in God's omnipotent government of all His children. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mary Baker Eddy n2 writes: ''God has endowed man with inalienable rights, among which are self-government, reason , and conscience. Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love.'' n3
n2 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.
n3 Science and Health, p. 106.
We can pray fervently that divine Love will touch the hearts of those who believe crime is the only way to survive amid poverty or addiction. We can be more conscious of divine Truth's universal presence and irresistible power. Our prayer can be a vigorous spiritual affirmation that man, the real man of Spirit's making, is obedient to the righteous government of God.
Our prayer needs to include the victims of crime, too. We can acknowledge, in communion with God, that none of Love's children is intimidated or afraid. Each one is endowed spiritually with such qualities as wisdom, alertness, and integrity. As a result of such prayer, we may find that our neighbors are discovering more intelligent and effective ways of safeguarding useful possessions.
Through God's guidance we could be led also to help eliminate human factors associated with crime. How often we read in the press about the need for better education, job training, and employment opportunities. Maybe in our profession, in our own workplace, we can help open doors for those who seek employment with less than perfect skills.
Once we've seen the essential goodness of man as God's own child, our desire to help and heal will be increased. We'll see the potential in all our fellow beings and will, in a useful and wise way, lend a hand right where we are.
Tolerating criminal thought and behavior will never help free our neighborhoods and cities from this plague. With the highest of Christian courage we need to rise up with indignation when crime appears to be making inroads into our thought and lives.
Far from naivete, our silent, spiritual insistence on man's innate likeness to God can help heal our communities. It can bring transformation to individual lives. It can help establish the kingdom of heaven - where crime has no place - on earth. DAILY BIBLE VERSE The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us. Isaiah 33:22