When I went through Christian Science Primary class instruction—a two-week course on Christian Science—I came away more aware of the importance of the two “great commandments” that Christ Jesus spoke about: love God and love man (your neighbor as yourself; see Matthew 22:35–39).
I could see how obedience to this divine law is necessary, but I couldn’t get past the “how” of loving my neighbor, my fellow man. Christian Science teaches that this kind of love heals every ill, so certainly it goes beyond just “being nice,” or a spontaneous emotional response to something pleasing.
I struggled long and hard with the question of how to love like a true Christian, knowing that loving others constitutes the spirit of Christianity.
At last I got my answer in this: to love means to identify God as my neighbor’s “source”; in other words, to identify my neighbor as the child of God; and loving myself means identifying myself as God’s child, too. This approach is so simple and pure and has an instant and remarkable effect. (It’s interesting and important to note that identifying someone as mortal, as not coming from God, Spirit, is the opposite of loving and therefore disobedient to divine law.)
Christ Jesus, mankind’s great example of love in action, demonstrated love right in the midst of severe persecution. While on the cross, he prayed for his tormentors, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He put them in his Father’s hands. In the Lord’s Prayer, he had already taught that this Father he identified as his own is our Father as well; a universal loving Parent to all, even to our enemies.
As we love, we experience the truth that God Himself loves us and approves of His own child.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, had her own cross-like experiences, and out of her deep reverence for the master Christian, she emulated his spirit of love and forgiveness. She discovered that loving in Jesus’ way had healing results and was based on a scientific system that could be repeated and applied, wherever healing is needed. A discordant situation can give place to heavenly harmony when addressed by identifying and understanding God as the one and only cause, who produces only spiritual good, and by loving God and man.
At one point in my life, I got into a spat with a loved one, which quickly spiraled out of control. After taking some abusive comments personally, I responded with an indignant email, which resulted in an email back from this individual, and a back and forth until I was so hurt and angry I could no longer think straight. I couldn’t sleep at night and couldn’t get any work done during the day. The situation felt so all-consuming. I was fixated on how right I was and how horribly, rudely wrong this other person was!
After a few days, I called for help from a relative who is a Christian Science practitioner. I spilled the whole story, expecting her to be on my side, but I was surprised when she pointed out that the other person was probably feeling the same way I was. She asked if I wished the torment I was feeling on anyone. I quickly agreed that I did not, no matter who they were. Embracing the Golden Rule (see Matthew 7:12) in this way helped get me on the right track.
That night, instead of tossing and turning in a restless stew of self-justification, I prayed on the basis of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. I identified my “enemy” correctly, as not being an enemy at all but being one with their source, divine Love. I could acknowledge that what the material picture presented—a picture of conflicting opinions, of disturbed, embattled mortals on the brink of permanently severing their relationship—was not what God, the only Mind, was knowing. God causes His own blessed ideas to manifest divine goodness and harmony, to reflect His own nature.
The practitioner had also reminded me about Christ Jesus’ directive: “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). Not only did loving my enemy identify them as one with their only true and divine source, but it demonstrated that I am God’s child, too.
I considered what Love accomplishes, as Mrs. Eddy describes throughout her writings: Love liberates, comforts, elevates, blesses, enlarges, purifies, bestows, leads, grants, heals. God’s child is always equipped to love as the object, reflection, and manifestation of divine Love. Understanding this truth about ourselves enables us to be always ready to say, “My pleasure,” when, for example, a lost soul is brought to us to be cared for, even when we might not get credit for it until later or ever. We can be ready to be like the good Samaritan, putting aside any selfish thought or fear to help someone by the “roadside.” The roadside can take many forms, but anyone in need of feeling or knowing God’s tender love could be likened to the man by the roadside who’d been attacked by thieves and left for dead.
I affirmed that Love is never either/or. It does not take from one and give to another. The open fount of Love is free to everyone, because Love is “impartial and universal” (Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 13). Where one is loved, all are loved. Where all are loved, one is loved. Seeing others as God’s ideas can help free them and us from error and sin, condemning and destroying the false sense, but never condemning people.
Inspired, I gathered up my courage the next morning and went to my friend’s house to apologize in person. During the drive over, I was tempted to be scared of the reception I would get, but I continued to love—to affirm that we were both the children of divine Love. Upon arriving, I was greeted with a warm hug and welcomed inside, where we had a good talk. Within minutes we had resolved our issues, and the remainder of the conversation consisted of laughing and sharing happy memories and good news. The experience has been a waymark for me in dealing with other conflicts.
Loving others spiritually is our salvation. Often the temptation is to get love, or approval, or recognition, or acceptance, or validation. But Christian Science is clear on the fact that we are “saved” (we attain our salvation) in proportion as we love. And as we love, we experience the truth that God Himself loves us and approves of His own child. Mrs. Eddy shared with one of her closest confidants, Laura Sargent, that “Our salvation is in Love.” She continued: “Call God Love always, and bend all your efforts toward achieving perfect love in thought, word, and deed. It is the [W]ay; all is won through it” (We Knew Mary Baker Eddy, Expanded Edition, Vol. I, p. 95).
Salvation—deliverance from sin, disease, and death—and the safety of our health and well-being, is inevitable when our thoughts are aligned with divine Love so closely that we think out from Love. Right in the midst of hateful or fearful circumstances, we can claim our God-given ability to love in thought and in action, and to understand God as our source and the only cause. In fact, any injury we may feel, whether it is physical, emotional, or financial, is the result of agreeing to accept something other than Love-, or Truth, as real.
In her article, “Love your enemies,” Mrs. Eddy insists that our enemy, in the form of an adverse person, place, or thing, is only the false sense we entertain: “Can you see an enemy, except you first formulate this enemy and then look upon the object of your own conception? What is it that harms you? Can height, or depth, or any other creature separate you from the Love that is omnipresent good,—that blesses infinitely one and all?
“Simply count your enemy to be that which defiles, defaces, and dethrones the Christ-image that you should reflect” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 8).
This theme of love undergirds the Bible and all of Mrs. Eddy’s writings. It’s illuminating to study these books with the concept of love as identifying ourselves and our neighbor as one with our divine source, and practice what we learn. In this way we are saved; our lives affirm the maxim expressed by St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians, that “charity”—spiritual love—never fails (see I Corinthians 13:8).
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