Who or What Influences Us?
MASSIVE media coverage of court cases involving celebrities or particularly sensational situations has raised questions about how much influence such reporting has on justice and on the public's perceptions. Coupled with this concern is speculation that the hunger for the most gruesome details in any case has overshadowed the search for truth. Such emphasis on materialism in its grossest form wrongly suggests that man is a bloodthirsty mortal whose thought cannot rise higher than the sensational. Through prayer, however, we can purify our own thoughts and contribute to freeing humanity from such bondage to materialism and evil.
One very simple way to start is to affirm that the man of God's creating--our real nature--is spiritual, the offspring of God. As such, he is naturally attracted to good, never to evil. Affirming the good in ourselves and others this way opens our hearts to the influence of God, divine Mind, and ultimately fills us with compassion for our fellow beings.
The book of Micah in the Bible eloquently describes what we are to do. It says of God, ``He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?'' (6:8)
Christ Jesus highlighted mercy even more fully when he included in the Beatitudes this statement: ``Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy'' (Matthew 5:7). And this wasn't just a theological point with him. He also acted mercifully. Here is how he dealt with a case that in today's world would have been ripe for media exploitation. A woman was caught committing adultery. The evidence seemed foolproof, the punishment was death by stoning. When her accusers brought her to Jesus, however, his refusal to condemn her freed her from their sentence, and his command not to sin anymore left her free to make a new start.
Jesus recognized man's inseparability from God and his inherent goodness as the child of God. He knew man to be spiritual, not material, and thus not subject to fleshly lusts or fascinations. This enabled him to see through to the innate purity and goodness of God and of His sons and daughters.
In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy gives some sound guidance on how to shift our focus from materialism to spirituality. As the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, she reveals a new view of God as divine Mind, the true intelligence of the universe. She cautions, ``In a world of sin and sensuality hastening to a greater development of power, it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one'' (pp. 82-83).
Through harking back to Christ Jesus' example and to the directions in the book of Micah, we can learn to detect what is influencing us. We can ask: Are the thoughts I am having about this situation the pure and good kind that Jesus would have? Am I being merciful? Am I really concerned with supporting genuine justice?
The last part of the verse from Micah speaks of walking ``humbly with thy God.'' Here, perhaps, the most needed quality is a willingness to let the divine Mind leaven our thought to a higher, more spiritual recognition of ourselves and others. Regardless of what we may think of another's guilt or innocence, we can affirm our trust in divine judgment and can pray to see that this ultimate intelligence will be manifested.
Refusing, then, to be drawn into the blood and gore, to the sensual details of sex and violence, is a necessary part of discerning the spiritual issues involved. As Jesus did with the woman accused of adultery, we can specifically express mercy in our own hearts toward those who are accused, while at the same time doing justly--recognizing that any necessary penalty will be paid under the government of God.
Letting ourselves be influenced only by divine Mind will make us more compassionate, discerning, and intelligent. It will also bring us more and more into harmony with the love of God.