The Beatitudes and spiritual warfare
THE basic rules of Christian behavior are found in Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.1 This sermon begins by showing the qualities that confer blessedness. The type of individual Jesus commends here could be described as one who doesn't make big claims for himself, who is meek, values righteousness, shows mercy, is pure, makes peace, and endures persecution with courage. This Christian model of behavior found in the Beatitudes is completely at odds with the commonly encountered view that self-interest, aggressiveness, immorality, and revenge are not only permissible but sadly necessary if we are to get ahead in this world.
The carnal mind, which St. Paul said is ``enmity against God,''2 would sometimes have us dehumanize those we perceive as enemies so that we believe that in fighting people we're fighting evil itself. While particular individuals or groups may seem to personify all that is unlike the Christ, we need to recognize the distinction between evil per se and those it would use.
Rejecting this age-old trick by which the carnal mind would perpetuate hostility, Christ Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies, encouraging us to behave as children of the one perfect Father. We're better able to do this as we understand that man, as God has truly created him, is something infinitely better than a frustrated fleshly being, out to grab what he can for himself. Man, as illustrated by Jesus through his healing works, is the outcome of God's own perfect nature, manifesting the beauty, bliss, power, and gentleness of his creator, infinite Love. To yield in prayer our own personal sense of things to the control of this absolute Love brings a peace that can be attained in no other way.
When we come to understand that reality is spiritual--is the kingdom of God, of Spirit, that Jesus preached and demonstrated in his healing works--we see that this kingdom can't be taken by force but can only be experienced through a progressive realization and demonstration of our unity with God as His spiritual image.
The Christian soldier who fights for entrance into this kingdom fights not against people and nations but against evil, materialistic thinking, which he grapples with on the battlefield of his own consciousness. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, describes the enemy this way: ``Simply count your enemy to be that which defiles, defaces, and dethrones the Christ-image that you should reflect.''3 The Christian soldier relentlessly pursues this enemy, which, if unchecked, would degrade the quality of life and happiness; but he remains compassionate toward his fellowman, recognizing that all people, in their true selfhood, share as brethren the kingdom of the one all-loving Father-Mother God.
It would be well worthwhile, even for those who think they totally disagree with Jesus' teaching, to ponder seriously the agenda put forth in the Sermon on the Mount and consider its implications and consequences. Wasn't the Master right in recommending such behavior for those who seek a kingdom of unshakable permanence? And might not a meek and compassionate love for our fellowman really be the best defense of the abundant good made available to us as citizens of this heavenly kingdom?
Mrs. Eddy writes: ``Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you. The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity.''4 Isn't the achievement of this blessed condition worth a greater effort than the spoils of self-interest?
1See Matthew, chaps. 5-7. 2Romans 8:7. 3Miscellaneous Writings, p. 8. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 571. You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14