Finding a Brother
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
At times we all encounter people who disturb us in some way. Despite our best efforts, we may not always be able to resolve our differences. But by turning to God wholeheartedly, we can expect to find the resolutions we need. Our part is to pray-listen for His voice. Even when it seems difficult, this is possible.
In the Bible you'll find stories of individuals who, when facing various enemies, discovered that safety and protection come from turning to God, from following His guidance. Sometimes, as with Jacob and his brother Esau, true reconciliation occurred (see Genesis, chaps. 32 and 33).
The book of Acts tells about Saul, a man dedicated to destroying Christians. In fact, he was at one point on his way to Damascus to round up the disciples of the Lord and bring them bound to Jerusalem (see Acts, chap. 9). But unknown to the followers of Christ, Saul had a change of heart on the road to Damascus. Blinded by a light from heaven, he heard the Lord telling him to go into the city and wait there for further instructions.
I have always been impressed by Ananias, a devout Christian who played a crucial part in Saul's transformation. God directed Ananias to go to the street called Straight, where he would find Saul. Ananias had heard of Saul's acts against the Christians in Jerusalem. And so he questioned God's command. But God reassured Ananias that He had a purpose for Saul, and Ananias obeyed Him. It must have taken courage to walk through the city to seek out one who threatened his life. He entered the house where Saul was, faced him with love, and, as the Bible says, addressed him as "Brother Saul" (verse 17). He healed Saul of blindness and baptized him. And Saul, renamed Paul, went on to preach Christianity all around the Roman Empire, blessing the known world immeasurably.
Christ Jesus told his followers how to deal with enemies; he said to love them (see Matthew 5:44). This does not mean that we must "embrace" an individual bent on harming us, and suffer the consequences. Loving the enemy means praying to see that individual as perfect as God makes him or her. When this view of others forms the basis of our thinking, we are able to find deliverance from enemies of every kind. Mary Baker Eddy's book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the textbook of Christian Science, says, "The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea,-perfect God and perfect man,-as the basis of thought and demonstration" (p. 259). This is a concise statement of how to pray in times of controversy.
Early in my study of Christian Science, I moved to another country. One of the few friends I had there became very hostile toward me, criticizing me because I didn't drink or smoke. Publicly and with enormous wit he ridiculed me, making me feel miserable. I tried to laugh, argue, and persuade him out of this behavior, to no avail. I prayed persistently to understand God's law of harmony, which governs every aspect of His creation. I was certain that the answer to my prayer would involve the removal of this very unkind person from my experience. But things only got worse.
One day as I turned to God, humbly asking for His guidance, I realized what I was doing wrong. In effect I was saying that God made us perfect except for this particular individual; he was God's one mistake. I was struck by the inconsistency of my prayer. Immediately, I tried to see my friend as God made him, perfect, including every lovely quality and nothing less. As I continued looking for these qualities, his attitude changed dramatically. He not only began to express kindness toward me but also accepted my help during a difficult time. What had changed? Through prayer I'd been able to see evidence of my friend's true nature as God's son. We have both enjoyed a friendship in the years since.
Only by learning of God can we each learn more of our own identity as His beloved child. When faced with any relationship problem, we can turn to God, listen for His guidance, follow His commands. We can always find a solution. We may even find a brother.