IN Eastern Europe, parts of Africa, and too many other places around the globe, antagonisms and hatred among racial, ethnic and religious groups still seem to hold sway. Often these hatreds claim to have a long history. Injustices done decades, or even centuries, previously continue to fuel anger and fear that cycle through succeeding generations.
Yet there is a way to break through this cycle, just as the Berlin Wall was broken down. And our prayers are our strongest weapon in this continuing war for universal brotherhood and harmony.
In his Sermon on the Mount, found in the Bible in Matthew's Gospel, Christ Jesus gave us the standard for dealing with our enemies. He urged: ``Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven."
This is no small task, but it is one that each of us can do because we have the benefit of Christ Jesus' example to follow. And even if we aren't in one of the lands that is experiencing violence, we can participate in bringing healing both by praying for those countries and by giving up our own angers or dislikes that we may be feeling toward others.
This work is not just one of putting it out of our minds or ``letting bygones be bygones." Ignoring anger doesn't really free us from it. But the kind of loving Christ Jesus lived to its ultimate did not ignore anger; it totally eliminated it. He was able to do this because he understood God to be divine Love, loving all His children impartially. And to understand that we are, in truth, ``the children of [our] Father which is in heaven enables us to know this Love and to feel the healing balm it pours in to our lives.
We know divine Love better as we daily affirm that we are spiritual, that we are expressing the qualities of Life, Truth, and Love toward ourselves and toward our fellow humans. Energy, goodness, purity, lovingkindness, patience, are all ways of illustrating our true, spiritual nature. And very often we learn to value these qualities even more when we are put to the test by having to deal with someone who seems unreceptive to good.
I remember a time when I had to serve in a volunteer activity with a man who seemed to embody dishonesty, selfishness, pettiness, and egotism. One night after an important meeting in which I had opposed a course of action he advocated, he lashed out at me bitterly.
At first, I too was incredibly angry. But even as we argued, I prayed earnestly to gain control of myself. Suddenly I had an insight into this man's behavior. I realized that much of what he did was motivated by fear and insecurity. At that moment I felt the first glimmerings of compassion for him, and the argument ended. We parted, not exactly peaceably, but I felt eager to pray further about the situation.
In the days that followed, I prayed to love this person as Christ Jesus would have loved him. I thought deeply about myself and the hatred I had felt toward him. I remembered a statement by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, that had always meant a lot to me. She says in her Miscellaneous Writings: ``Hate no one; for hatred is a plague-spot that spreads its virus and kills at last. If indulged, it masters us; brings suffering upon suffering to its possessor, throughout time
and beyond the grave." This potent statement was a welcome spur to my efforts to replace hatred with love.
The next time I saw this man he was with his wife. The three of us had a very friendly conversation together. Although he and I continued to have contact, I never again experienced such tension or anger, and we completed our work together without further incident.
We each face challenges within our own neighborhoods or towns as we meet people of different backgrounds. Misunderstandings and confusion don't need to disrupt our harmony if we can treat one another with the love that Christ Jesus taught and lived.
As we do this, we will be building bridges of understanding with others and will be spreading this love much further than our own neighborhood. Love has a way of rippling out to the world at large and of gently but firmly pervading thought and helping others to love too. In this way our prayers will help to destroy the ``plague-spot" of hatred and bring our whole world closer to permanent peace.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.... Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.... If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who
loveth God love his brother also. I John 4:7, 10, 11, 20, 21