Is kindness an evasive response to animosity? Is love a weak reply to hatred? Are self-abnegation and courage exceptional when one is under threat? It’s pretty safe to say that Christ Jesus didn’t think so. He taught that kindness, love, setting aside one’s own interests in the interest of others, and courage, are natural ways for us to respond to evil.
He said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, 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: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45. KJV)
What I get from Jesus' analogy of the sunlight and rain is that, like a beam of light is capable of lighting any degree of darkness, and raindrops can cleanse, satiate, saturate, and nourish any type of plant, every single expression of God’s love, reflected in our thought (through blessings and prayers) and actions (like doing others good), meets any human need, including the need to defend against and to disarm evil. God, who is divine Love, provides each one of His children with His own love to experience and express. As the reflection or image of God, each of us has a limitless spring of kindness, courage, selflessness and love to draw on. God’s love expressed in us, in big and small ways, can turn an enemy from evil, guiding him in some degree to express his (or her) true spiritual selfhood. God’s love expressed through us can even disarm and render an enemy incapable of doing harm.
I once discovered a not-yet-consummated plot to bring harm and upset to our very loving and happy family. Initially I was caught off guard. No one had recognized that hatred had been slowly, silently building up behind the scenes in the thought of a distant relation over many decades. I should note that at first I didn’t know this woman personally, but I married into a family that had a long ago history with her. So not knowing the back-story, I unwittingly invited her to stay with us during a time of need. Consequently, being the hostess and the one the most present, I made the discovery of the plot and became the main target of animosity.
A typical human response might have been to ask her to leave. I certainly contemplated it. But in consideration of the family, I decided to keep her close. Pushing hatred off in the distance would not eliminate the danger. So, I decided to take the opportunity, while she was under my care, to pray for resolution. It required both courage and self-abnegation to put my family’s needs before my own, but each morning for three days I turned to God for guidance in how to proceed, and for the wisdom and courage to follow through.
The first morning, my answer to prayer - “Be kind” - seemed counter-intuitive. But it was all I could hear when I prayed, “Be kind, just be kind.” So I trusted the answer to my prayer and thought of all the kindnesses I could express. I prepared her tea and sat with her while she drank it, even while she said the most awful things to me. I took great care in making her room up nicely, providing fresh linens and towels. I was as nice as I knew to be, remaining non-reactive to the stinging verbal abuse that continued throughout the day.
Day two, I prayed again. And I got the same message. “Be kind.” But this time I wanted to go beyond mere human "do-gooding." My heart craved to feel the power of kindness as a spiritual attribute sourced in God. So I looked a bit deeper into what kindness involves.
I found this in Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, where she wrote: “Christian Science commands man to master the propensities, — to hold hatred in abeyance with kindness, to conquer lust with chastity, revenge with charity, and to overcome deceit with honesty. Choke these errors in their early stages, if you would not cherish an army of conspirators against health, happiness, and success.” SH 405:5-11
Science and Health helped me to see that kindness was more than a stall-tactic to delay evil; when understood to come from God, Love, it is an expression of spiritual and loving power that suspends and renders evil inactive. Armed with this perspective, I approached the second day with joy and determination. Even though her conversation didn’t improve, perhaps even worsened, I felt that my expression of patience and good, through kind thoughts and acts, were Love-enforced and therefore were choking out evil’s capacity to hit its mark.
As I grew stronger and more confident in my reflection of divine Love through self-abnegation and kindness, I became more convinced that evil could be completely disarmed. I awakened on day three with a sincere prayer to disarm evil. The message I received in prayer was different. “Love her.”
Whoa. I felt unprepared for that. Love her? I didn’t even like her! At least I didn’t like what I had seen in her – the hateful resentment, the determination to do harm, the justification of her position, and the personal attacks on me as an innocent bystander trying my best to be kind.
The Bible tells a story of David before he became a king. The present king, Saul, discovered David's whereabouts in a desert wilderness, and hunted him with a murderous intent. David found Saul’s camp, and he could have easily taken out Saul and his guards at night while they slept. But instead, David said he could not do harm to “God’s anointed.” So rather than killing Saul to save himself, he disarmed him, taking away his weapon and his water, and leaving Saul with neither the means to harm David nor the water that would allow Saul to continue his desert pursuit. Upon awakening, Saul recognized that David had been kind to him by disarming without harming him when he was most vulnerable and exposed. In the end, Saul admitted his error in hunting David, and blessed him. (See I Samuel:26)
Interestingly, David recognized that Saul had more to learn, and that he would come after him to attempt to kill him on another day. (I Samuel 27:1) But Saul’s behavior didn’t determine David’s actions. David’s agenda was set by God, Love. David loved Saul. He never failed to recognize Saul as “God’s anointed” even while Saul behaved abominably. And through all future encounters with this enemy, David remained perfectly safe. (See I Samuel 21-31, II Samuel
We could say that a spiritual sense of Saul as "God's anointed" helped David keep his cool and disarm his enemy. Well, my spiritual sense of our hate-filled houseguest helped me love her on that third day. I recognized that as God’s child she was a reflection of divine Love, and therefore loveable, no matter what she believed about our family or expressed. I spent the day, feeling divine Love, like light and rain, pouring forth with no judgment on all His creation.
The fourth morning, I awakened and leapt out of bed to greet our guest and to prepare her breakfast. I was truly looking forward to seeing her, so strengthened was I by all this kindness and love. On the kitchen counter I found a short note which concluded, “Thank you for your kindness.” She had packed in the night and left before we awakened.
She never did act on her destructive plan. In fact, we never saw her again. We had news of her from time to time for about a year, but never negative. And after a year or so, we never heard of her again.
Perhaps not every enemy will become a friend. But enemies don’t set the agenda unless we allow them to. Christ Jesus taught and David illustrated that we can choose to love by letting divine Love reveal the human footsteps for disarming any enemy. Courage, strength, selflessness, love and spiritual understanding open the way and do the work.
I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no