Brothers, sisters, and strangers
Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel
A long time ago in a faraway place, a child had been orphaned. The only things she possessed were a few pieces of clothing and a scrap of bread. As the story is told: "She was good and pious, however. And as she was thus forsaken by all the world, she went forth into the open country, trusting in the good God."
The weather was cold, and along the road she happened upon a beggar even hungrier than she was. With God's blessing, she offered him her bread. As she continued along, she willingly gave each piece of her clothing, in turn, to some other wayfaring child who, like herself, was abandoned and cold.
When night fell, she had given away everything, even the last shirt she wore. Standing alone in the forest, looking up at the heavens, she suddenly found that somehow she was wearing a new shirt "of the very finest linen." And the stars were falling into her hands as precious "smooth pieces of money." She was never again in want, but was "rich all the days of her life" ("The Star-Money," "Grimm's Household Tales," English translation by Margaret Hunt).
This tale is among the many that the brothers Grimm gathered in Germany in the early 19th century. It isn't as well known as others, such as "Cinderella" or "Snow White." Yet its moral is both tender and timeless: going forth into the world, even when bereft of all human supports, willing to care for brother, sister, or stranger, we can always trust "in the good God." This is a deeply Christian perspective, as well.
Jesus told his followers a parable that illustrated clearly how the kingdom of God is realized: "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: ... I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me .... Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? ... When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?"
The King answered, "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:34-38, 40).
In her writings on Christian living and spiritual healing, Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who discovered and founded Christian Science, affirms, "The rich in spirit help the poor in one grand brotherhood, all having the same Principle, or Father; and blessed is that man who seeth his brother's need and supplieth it, seeking his own in another's good" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 518).
These are all lessons in both the demand and the gift of Love - divine Love, God. The reality of who each of us truly is, our spiritual identity, has its origin and substance in Love. We are Love's creation. We are also Love's expression. This must mean that the most natural thing in the world for God's people is to love. Yes, what we see in the world might try to convince us of hatred's power, of inhumanity, resentment, revenge, prejudice. Yet spiritual sense keeps telling us of God's unbreakable love and our true place in Love's universe.
We can't really stop ourselves from loving - and being loved - any more than we would stop the willow's buds from leafing out or the water from cascading over Niagara Falls. That's what a willow tree always does each spring. That's what the water at Niagara does - as much as 1.5 million gallons of it, every second of every minute of every hour.
When we look deeply into the reality of God's love - of God as Love - we see that we can't escape it. And we don't want to. We are Love's expression. As we give of our love freely - to brother, sister, and stranger - we find that we're rich, truly rich, all the days of our life.
For now we see through a
glass, darkly; but then face
to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as
also I am known. And now
abideth faith, hope, charity,
these three; but the greatest
of these is charity.
I Corinthians 13:12, 13
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society