WHAT began several years ago as de-mocratization, glasnost (openness), and perestroika (restructuring) -- new ways of thinking about and renovating government and commerce at all levels within the Soviet Union -- now appears to many to be leading to unpredictable developments. And if a few seem hopeful, no one seems satisfied. It is difficult to hear about and watch such upheavals from afar -- and more challenging still to experience them at close range -- and not feel helpless. What are people to do? Just wait and hope for the best? Protest, arm themselves, give up, try to emigrate? What can we -- in or outside the Soviet Union -- do?
In the midst of developments in the East, and the voluminous discussions and analysis of them in the West, it is perhaps easy to lose sight of the fact that something more than men and women governs on earth. Despite appearances, we are not on our own -- by choice or by chance. A power higher and infinitely better than human authority is already in place, in control, and within reach.
God may not get much attention in political circles or on economic or social reform agendas. But that doesn't do away with His authority. God, after all, is the creator and divine Principle of all that really exists. He is not elected or promoted by popular consent. He is self-existent. And He is even now in control of His creation, including man -- the true, spiritual nature of every individual.
Human government often seems capricious in the way it's conducted and inadequate to the demands made upon it. But real, spiritual government -- God's government -- rules through divine intelligence and love, and it is always reliable and effective. This government operates on an individual level, for God sees each of us as singularly precious. And it also functions on a universal level, for if there is but one divine Parent, one Father-Mother God, there must be but one family of man, governed harmonious ly by divine law.
The profoundly simple prayer Christ Jesus gave his followers, the Lord's Prayer, reminds us of God's loving leadership, government, and dominion. ``Thy will,'' we read in Matthew, ``be done in earth, as it is in heaven.'' And the Lord's Prayer is a prayer anyone may pray to good effect, regardless of one's location or circumstances.
For nearly a year one time, I prayed this prayer daily for my neighborhood. Though I was not aware of any open hostilities at this particular time, it seemed right to try to bring greater peace to my own town as well as into the world generally. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, includes the Lord's Prayer at the end of the first chapter, which is on prayer. With each line from the Bible is printed what Mrs. Edd y understood to be the spiritual sense of Jesus' words.
One passage that again and again touched my heart as I prayed for my neighborhood and that reminded me of God's endless goodwill to man and of the perpetual presence of the divine Principle, Love, is this one: ``And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors'' which Science and Health renders: ``And Love is reflected in love....'' The word is stood out and said to me that I could expect daily to feel, see, and respond with this God-given love in my re lations with my neighbors.
During that year, some interesting things occurred. Two new families moved in, each of which brought a new depth of kindness, morality, and stability to the neighborhood. Friendships among all members of both families developed quickly with many others on the street. Late in the summer, a social gathering for the entire neighborhood took place. A previous effort to hold such an event had failed when long-standing animosities between a number of families had surfaced. When the gathering was held, however , everyone in the neighborhood joined in. Finally, one of my own nearest neighbors -- the man across the street -- with whom there had been little communication, began to open up. In fact, we both opened up! And we've been on steadily friendly terms ever since. Nothing like these changes had occurred in the previous seven years I'd lived there!
This is a small example, certainly in global terms, but it shows that there is something we all can do. To pray this time-tested, loving prayer for ourselves and for our neighbors, wherever they may be, and especially if those neighbors seem to be enemies at present, is doing something concrete to help. And even if our trust in God is feeble just now, even if we have no idea where this prayer will lead, we can be sure that our praying it will result in good. It will put us on the path to peaceful and pr oductive coexistence, wise decisions, honest and lasting affection for one another. It will put us on the road home.
Beloved, let us love one another:
for love is of God;
and every one that loveth is born of God,
and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God;
for God is love.
...Herein is love,
not that we loved God,
but that he loved us....
Beloved, if God so loved us,
we ought also to love one another.
...If we love one another,
God dwelleth in us,
and his love is perfected in us.
I John 4:7, 8, 10-12