WRITING about East and West, Rudyard Kipling said, ``...never the twain shall meet.''1 Some days the news echoes ``never the twain'' more than any hope of surmounting differences. Even with local troubles, neighbors reluctant to do anything about conflicts can appear to be locked into rigid standpoints. When the world is the neighborhood and countries are the neighbors, the tensions seem even more intractable. It becomes essential to look for the common bonds. During a meeting with a new acquaintance in another country, I asked if he thought his country was capable of handling the emerging era of drastic change. He replied defensively: ``Of course.'' But then he added, ``I should think, also, that you would do well to hope good for my nation and its future.''
As someone who usually does try hard to ``hope good,'' I felt gently, but justly, reprimanded. In fact, my outlook is keyed to far more than merely hoping for good; it is keyed to a spiritual conviction that good is the constant in life. This constant leads one to a different perspective. We come to see that what is inevitable is the surrendering of a limiting, materialistic outlook, with its belief that evil is pervasive.
Yes, evil often seems pervasive. But we all have the choice of acknowledging good to be the constant, the genuine reality, and to do so isn't naivet or superficial positive thinking. Singular trust in God's governing power and in the permanence of good enables us to help bring that spiritual reality to light, at least to some degree -- to help bring into view the spiritual truth of God and man.
This was illustrated by Christ Jesus. He urged consistent adherence to good, consistent resistance to evil, making the point with an everyday metaphor: ``No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.''2 Jesus' life, which included healing the sick and forgiving sin on the basis of man's true, sinless, spiritual selfhood, was itself an example of predominant good.
Nevertheless, it requires more than wishful thinking to follow Jesus' example and teachings. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, notes: ``Mortal man believes in, but does not understand life in, Christ. He believes there is another power or intelligence that rules over a kingdom of its own, that is both good and evil; yea, that is divided against itself, and therefore cannot stand. This belief breaks the First Commandment of God.''3
However he may have meant it, I took my friend's ``hope good'' as a reminder of a deeper, spiritual truth that becomes evident as we work to overcome troubles. Instead of perceiving conflict and antagonism as inevitable, thought opens to God's authority. Historical imperatives, evidence of attitudes endlessly in collision, become less persuasive. Our Father's love for His children enters the mental picture. And once this outlook begins to influence thought, hearts can be touched.
As a result of this prayerful line of reasoning, my conversation with this acquaintance took a new and encouraging turn. Our meeting was hardly a turning point in the history of two countries. But it was a turning point in a personal and professional relationship that could needlessly have gone sour. My friend's emphasis on hoping for good and my own prayer to keep faith with one God, who is good, lifted our time together out of the ordinary. This experience reminds me that the twain clearly can meet when there is mutual hope and an expectation that good, which comes from God, does endure.
1The Ballad of East and West. 2Matthew 6:24. 3Miscellaneous Writings, p. 197.