About fifteen years ago a neighbor and I were talking about the Middle East. She was a Jew married to an Arab. Attempting to establish some common ground between us, I remarked that after the Second World War I had become somewhat of a Zionist. She replied, "It used to be that getting back to the land was a way to get back to God."
Over the years I've thought about this conversation, and many times wished that I could continue it. It was obvious that she and her husband had a good marriage. I didn't know her husband's religious or political views. What I did know was that there seemed to be no friction between them, that they helped their neighbors and were immensely resourceful while serving on our tenants' board. Their lives seemed to me to be a pattern for peace.
Today many Arabs, Christians, and Jews are proving that pleasant interactions and even peaceful coexistence are possible. Many have recognized that the fact that we all worship one and the same God has a lot to do with this harmony.
The most recent flare-up in the Middle East says to me that it's time for those of us who believe this to hang tough, proving that the active worship of God can bring peace, better economic conditions, and safety for everyone. It is possible to forsake partisan viewpoints and inherited hurts. It's possible to love inclusively, and to have the wisdom to know when and how to go beyond the mores of our own group.
I learned something about this several years ago when I was teaching an intensive course that required being with a small group of people for several hours every day. One of the students was from a cultural and ethnic background different from the rest of us. One morning she did something that was quite taboo to the group. I was embarrassed, and wondered what the others would do. As it turned out, my reaction was all out of proportion, and things were quickly smoothed over.
From time to time since then I've remembered my few seconds of intense dismay. The incident gave me a great respect for people who are able to rise above cultural clashes, and a compassion for those, who, like me in that instance, are temporarily unable to do so.
With all the controversy and conflict over places of worship around the world, it has been helpful for me to remember that whether someone worships in a mosque, a synagogue, or a church, each one has the same motive. Heartfelt worship is a humble seeking to know God better, and a sincere desire to live what we learn. It helps us become willing to examine our ways and, if necessary, to change them. Anyone who engages in such worship is helping the world overcome fears, including the fear of change.
The prophet Abraham showed great courage and surrender to God's will as he made his physical and spiritual journey to find a place where he could freely worship God. A New Testament writer, speaking of this journey of faith, notes that "he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Heb. 11:10).
Another writer calls this city "new Jerusalem" and says of the inhabitants that God "will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Rev. 21:3, 4).
Today we have the opportunity, the challenge, to seek this new Jerusalem. Our lives, like my neighbors', can become patterns for peace. And these patterns can multiply into a world at peace.
I pray that heaven's messages of 'on earth peace, good will toward men,' may fill your hearts and leave their loving benedictions upon your lives.
Mary Baker Eddy
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society