Private Ideals, Public Action
IT'S not necessarily because people are especially skeptical about ideals in public life, but it often comes as a welcome surprise when a public official is able to follow his or her convictions in the face of pressure to compromise. The appeal of someone who lives up to a high standard is obvious. Here is an individual who has strength of character, whose consistency can be trusted.
Particularly in a democracy, where government by the people is the norm, it makes sense that we, the individual citizens, are the ones who first need to live by our ideals. Not to lie, steal, covet, or commit adultery--as the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus, instruct--would certainly help clean up personal and public lives. But who can say that he or she has always, in thought and deed, lived up to the standards of the Ten Commandments? High ideals sometimes look impractical when politics--or life in g eneral--is full of pressure to compromise.
Though the standard of the Commandments is high, it is not unreachable. One of the ways we can learn to live by these highest of all rules is to serve God before trying to please people. For example, as we value Truth, God, above the opinions or praise of men, we won't find telling half-truths, or even outright lies, so tempting. As God, divine Principle, is foremost in our lives, we won't see taking moral shortcuts as a viable alternative. The First Commandment states bluntly this demand that our first
allegiance be to God: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Truth, God, creates man fully able to live uprightly. The man that God knows and fathers is not a physical or mortal creation-- he is spiritual, like Truth. Evil ambitions and motives stem from mortality, not spirituality. They do not hold sway or have power over God's idea, spiritual man. When we are in the thick of deciding what course of action to follow, it is our real, spiritual identity that naturally attracts us to integrity, honesty, and all the qualities that make for good citizenship. You could
say that a discernment of what is right is God's gift to us--from the creator, Truth, to His image and likeness, spiritual man.
Ethics based on spiritual laws, such as the Ten Commandments, are more than strong personal standards. They point to a deeper reality--Truth's eternal government of man. "Man is properly self-governed only when he is guided rightly and governed by his Maker, divine Truth and Love, writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.
Some of the strongest examples of how to live up to these spiritual ideals come from the Bible. The example of Christ Jesus gives continuous help to people learning to stick by their ideals. His kind of living could be summarized in Paul's words to the Galatians: "All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Jesus' ideals were put into practice in loving God and man.
Divine Love, God, is the underlying support of our ethics. As we put God's commandments into practice, we will see more clearly that the real nature of each of us is intrinsically upright and truth-loving. Whether we are legislators or regular citizens, our honesty and goodness count. While no one can determine the ideals and morals of another person, a citizenship that values truth above untruths must have a transforming effect in society. Private ideals become public action as we live in accord with wh at we believe.