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Uprooting revenge

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

The end of nato bombing in Kosovo was cause for gratitude. But the problem of ethnic revenge - the product of centuries of violence - continues. Though one side may appear to be largely at fault right now, the long, sad fact is that both sides, or all sides, have indulged the ugly habit.

Will anything end the cycles of offense and retaliation, especially when today's problems have their roots in incidents that took place perhaps hundreds of years ago?

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A big step toward solution would be to correctly identify the root of the problem. Thoughts precede actions. Isn't it apparent that these acts of revenge and retaliation result from ingrained motives and thoughts? Many people see these as violent disagreements over plots of land or religious shrines, or as accumulated hatred caused by uncountable instances of hurt over generations.

But is it possible that the real problem is something deeper - and yet simpler?

Maybe the deepest thoughts that need changing are not about ethnicity, but are about God. To whatever degree we think the one infinite God is vengeful - a God who balances every real or imagined offense with an equal retaliation - we'll feel justified in doing hateful acts. In fact, hatred will appear to have divine authorization. Mary Baker Eddy, who established the Monitor, observed that "tyranny, intolerance, and bloodshed, wherever found, arise from the belief that the infinite is formed after the pattern of mortal personality, passion, and impulse" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 94).

Some parts of the Bible represent God as a mixture of love and hate, as tenderly compassionate toward one group and coldheartedly merciless toward another. Other parts reveal God to be infinite, unchanging, and total Love. "God is love," said Jesus' beloved disciple, John (1 John 4:8). And the Bible repeatedly says that we are God's children. Our real nature as children of Love is to be loving and kind, not vengeful and mean.

When asked if we should forgive our brother seven times, Jesus replied, "Until seventy times seven" (Matt. 18:22). Someone might say, "I agree with that for my 'brother.' But these people are not my family. They are my sworn and mortal enemies."

That's worth thinking about. That view has a connection with our concept of God. This may seem like hard reasoning to accept - but, if God is the Parent of all, then how can the one who seems to be our enemy be anything other than our brother or sister? We may have thought about a person or a people for years as being despicable. But they are really the beloved of our mutual Parent, God.

And doesn't it then follow that it's natural for us to forgive? Not to return evil for evil, but to let God dissolve every impulse of malice?

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We can actually do it when we discipline thought with the truth that God is good, and the Father-Mother of all. According to Science and Health, Jesus "recognized Spirit, God, as the only creator, and therefore as the Father of all" (pg. 31).

Agreeing even a little to this higher view of how we relate to God and to each other, we begin to have what the Bible calls "the mind of Christ." Profound changes occur in thought - changes that enable compassion, forgiveness, and patience to take root in human behavior. It is like the beauty of pure gold that appears when grease and grime are washed off.

Intolerance, brutality, revenge, etc., are no more natural to humankind than indifference is natural to motherhood. If cruelty seems to be educated in individuals, and even in entire nations, through the belief that God and His creation are material and inclined to rivalry, this mistaken belief disappears in the degree that we embrace the fact that God and His children are spiritual.

Kosovo is no more destined to repeat an historic cycle of hate and revenge than the United States was destined to continue its national policy of human slavery. Hate can be healed by the action of omnipotent God, who has influence over every consciousness. Revenge can be ended by the power of universal Love.

You can read other articles like this one in a weekly magazine called the Christian Science Sentinel.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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