War, Peace, and Our Idea of God
AS the terrible machinery of war rumbled, and roared, into place in the Persian Gulf, there was another sound to be heard. It was the silent cry, in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, and children: ``Please God, let there be no war. Let our loved ones come home safe. Let there be peace.'' Surely this heartfelt prayer for peace is a prayer every believer can join in, regardless of whether he or she is Muslim or Christian or Jew. The Middle East is the birthplace of three of the world's great religions, the place where God, by whatever name, spoke in the stillness of the desert and prophets called mankind to love and obey the one God, a God who is good, merciful, and just.
Yet this vision of God has often been distorted by a material perception of God that would make Him into a wrathful, tribal warrior-God, slaughtering His enemies and the enemies of His people. When the highest, clearest vision of God breaks through in human consciousness, it shows something quite different. God reveals Himself as our loving Father, as divine Love itself, incapable of evil or harm and able to do all good for His children.
To bring lasting peace to the Middle East, how important it is not to lose sight of the true nature of God as good. Prayer that God should kill or destroy our ``enemies'' never reaches the divine ear. Prayer that ``our side'' should win, because ``our side is just,'' is not heard, even if our side is humanly more just or good. God is, simply, good -- absolute, unchangeable good.
Thus, if our motives and actions are truly good, reflecting the nature of God in some degree, in that measure alone does God help us. Not by dint of divine intervention on ``our side,'' but because when we act with genuine goodness, justice, and mercy, we are reflecting the divine nature and power.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, speaks of these issues in a remarkable sermon called The People's Idea of God. Speaking from the standpoint of her own revolutionary discoveries about the true nature of God, she writes: ``Proportionately as the people's belief of God, in every age, has been dematerialized and unfinited has their Deity become good; no longer a personal tyrant or a molten image, but the divine Life, Truth, and Love, -- Life without beginning or ending, Truth without a lapse or error, and Love universal, infinite, eternal.''
She continues, ``This more perfect idea, held constantly before the people's mind, must have a benign and elevating influence upon the character of nations as well as individuals, and will lift man ultimately to the understanding that our ideals form our characters, that as a man `thinketh in his heart, so is he.'''
As we pray for loved ones and friends and others in the Gulf, we can know that God is there, that He is universal Love. God's love doesn't know any divisions of nationality, race, or creed. This is perhaps one of the hardest things for us to learn. It's so easy to think of those we oppose as being less than human, as being totally evil.
And yet, no Christian can escape these words of his Way-shower, Christ Jesus: ``Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love you enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.'' Why? ``That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.''
We show ourselves most clearly to be the children of our heavenly Father, God, when we love, when we express the true nature of God, who is Love. Christian Science strengthens our ability to obey Jesus' demand to love our enemies, by showing us the true identity of man in God's likeness. Contrary to what the physical senses say, man's true being is wholly good and spiritual. Man is the expression, or idea, of divine Love. What we call an enemy -- a mortal, hateful, sinful man -- is a gross lie about man's true nature as the child of God.
Once we glimpse, even a little, that this wholly good and spiritual man is the true identity of all, we can begin to see how to love our so-called enemies. We see something of the kingdom of heaven, in which all God's children live in the perpetual peace and harmony of divine Love itself. Man, as God knows and creates him, reflects the unlimited nature of Life, Truth, and Love, even as the image in a mirror reflects the original. Thus man's true nature is Godlike, not warlike; good, not evil; gentle, not violent.
Spiritual truths such as these, held in our thought and prayers about our loved ones, as well as those who seem to be enemies, help bring genuine peace to the world. God's love, reflected in us, not only puts out the fires of hatred and fear in our own hearts; it acts as a healing balm for all humanity.
Let not your heart be troubled:
ye believe in God,
believe also in me....
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name,
that will I do,
that the Father may be glorified
in the Son....
Peace I leave with you,
my peace I give unto you:
not as the world giveth,
give I unto you.
Let not your heart be troubled,
neither let it be afraid.
John 14:1, 13, 27