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Neighbors at peace

A Christian Science perspective: A prayerful response to the Monitor editorial 'A universal answer to religious violence.'

A young Palestinian asked me for directions as we stood on a street corner in the US city where I live. As we talked, she told me that she was a leader of an Israeli-Palestinian youth group working for peace.

That’s why I paid special attention to a quote from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in a Monitor editorial called “A universal answer to religious violence.” Rabbi Sacks says that the Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – should bless the world by practicing their shared teaching that man is God’s image and likeness.

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In the Bible, the words “image” and “likeness” describe the purely spiritual identity of each individual as God’s reflection (see Genesis 1:26, 27). The spiritual truth that we each are the likeness of the same immortal Mind and divine Love – two of the synonyms for God given in Christian Science – has more than once stopped me from treating someone as an enemy working against my best interests. Most often in those cases we’ve discovered a way to live or work together.

From the beginning of the Scriptures, the more that biblical characters knew about God, the more they learned to respect the lives and dignity of individuals. Abraham was called the “Friend of God” (James 2:23) and it made him the friend of humanity, too. During a conflict over water wells, Abraham said to his nephew Lot, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren” (Genesis 13:8). He then gave Lot the first choice of land where he, his extended family, and his herds would live. You could say that Abraham’s generous conduct came from trusting that God is the endless source of good for everyone.

With the assurance that we belong to God, divine Mind, and express the Godlike qualities of intelligence and lovingkindness, we begin to challenge and overcome the enemy mentality – the belief of two or more mortal minds in conflict. The true spiritual nature of man does not include the mortal characteristics of greed, ignorance, self-will, or hate because they are unlike God, not created by Him, and therefore not included in His likeness.

 Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote in a newspaper article, “How Strife may be Stilled”: “The Principle of all power is God, and God is Love. Whatever brings into human thought or action an element opposed to Love, is never requisite, never a necessity, and is not sanctioned by the law of God, the law of Love. The Founder of Christianity said: ‘My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you’ ” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” pp. 278-279).

The explanation of God as all-powerful Love overcomes hate, and is expressed in what Christ Jesus taught. He told his followers, “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” (Matthew 5:44, 45).

Any step toward peace starts with ourselves. God, the one Mind and Love, nurtures in us a desire to know God, and our real spiritual identity as Love’s likeness. And that leads us to recognize and appreciate Love’s likeness in our neighbors.