THE other evening after dinner with a visiting relative I found myself drawn into a discussion about religion. He wanted to compare my religious views with the views of the church he attends. I knew there were major doctrinal differences, and when he realized them, his feeling of alienation was evident. Outside of religious viewpoints, family affection was strong, however, and we parted that night on warm terms. But the feeling of division within Christianity gave me a lot to think about in the days after our conversation. Religions and sects haven't always done very well in dealing with their differences. Sadly, some of the bloodiest and bitterest conflicts have stemmed from religious fervor. With this fact in mind as I thought of our conversation, it seemed important that I not become bitter or disappointed about our differences. I needed to obey Jesus' injunction ``Judge not''1 in my heart. And that meant loving my relative as God's child -- not just the child of my brother-in-law. I realized that I needed to trust that God, as our Father and divine Principle, would guide both of us to know Him accurately.
Christ Jesus was pure in his obedience and adoration of Love, God. And as I prayed to love my relative more spiritually, I remembered the time Jesus was asked, by Pharisees who were trying to ``entangle him in his talk,'' if someone who was true only to God should give tribute to Caesar. Jesus, taking a tribute coin, asked them whose image was on it. When they answered ``Caesar's,'' he said, ``Render therefore unto C8sar the things which are C8sar's; and unto God the things that are God's.''2
While we often have an intuitive comprehension of God as Love or a deep longing for absolute, unchanging Truth, our choice of which church to attend is sometimes influenced by our allegiances to family or culture rather than to our God. And such a mixture of allegiances may confuse human will with spiritual longings. It may confuse the fashioning of a human utopia with seeking the kingdom of God or the establishing of unity through legal action with the unity that results from following God's healing law of love. A mixture of human and divine, material and spiritual, allegiances may sometimes substitute ritual for the spiritual honesty of prayer.
As many who have debated doctrine have realized, what sounds right in words doesn't always feel right to the heart. The heart is often more perceptive of the world of Spirit, God -- the world not seen by the senses -- than is strict logic or human reasoning. And it is the illumination that comes from spiritual understanding that brings substantial change, fulfillment, and healing to our lives.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``We shall obey and adore in proportion as we apprehend the divine nature and love Him understandingly, warring no more over the corporeality, but rejoicing in the affluence of our God. Religion will then be of the heart and not of the head.''3
How much the world needs this unity of hearts!
1Matthew 7:1. 2Matthew 22:15, 21. 3Science and Health, p. 140.
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