IT'S natural to think of neighbors as the people living next door or a friend we see every day. But most of us also have opinions about others whether they're close friends or not. If we want to obey the Christian command Christ Jesus cited, ``Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,''1 starting with our thoughts about all these neighbors may be a first step. We don't need to wait until others do something we like in order to love them better. We can improve our view of them anytime. How? By learning to love mankind spiritually. As we strive to acknowledge that man, as God's perfect image and likeness, is spiritual, we're starting from a completely different standpoint. From this standpoint we'll find that it's possible, and natural, to uplift our concept of others. As we learn more about spiritual man, we'll discover that our very first thoughts of others can be spiritual and loving and wise instead of critical or negative.
We may think we know too much about some people even to begin to think of them as Godlike. We have plenty of information -- from experience! -- that some people are leagues from what we might think of as spiritually perfect. Once we make the effort, however, to challenge what we think about others and to accept what God knows to be true of His children, things happen. As we yield to Christ, the divine influence of God, this Christly healing power brings changes; we begin to discover the innate good others can express.
When I was in the Army, I worked with a man who was obnoxious, clumsy, thoughtless, and insensitive, or so I thought. Every time I saw him I was disgusted. Worse yet, we were always assigned to the same shift. I couldn't escape. Here was a neighbor I could not move away from. But this turned out to be a real blessing for me.
I began to pray. I realized that God is the true creator of man. Reasoning that God's creation must be good, I began to ``behold the upright,''2 perfect man of His creating. I gained some peace, and soon I was able to see more of this co-worker's spiritual identity as God's good man each time I thought of him. It really was like having a new neighbor.
This more spiritual view enabled me to appreciate things about him I had missed before. I valued his contribution to our work effort and even learned from the good things he did. Before long we were getting along like old friends.
That was almost thirty years ago. But every time I think of him, I remember the good man. Underlying my change of thought about my friend was an entirely spiritual view of man. There's nothing to stop us from having this wholly spiritual view of others, because each of us is, in reality, the expression of God, the one divine Mind.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``When we realize that there is one Mind, the divine law of loving our neighbor as ourselves is unfolded; whereas a belief in many ruling minds hinders man's normal drift towards the one Mind, one God, and leads human thought into opposite channels where selfishness reigns.''3
The Christian demand is that we love every individual as God's image and likeness. A tall order, perhaps, but not impossible. As we love the man God has created, we are spiritualizing our view of humanity. And we will find we have new neighbors everywhere we look.
1Matthew 19:19. 2Psalms 37:37. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 205.