It never ceases to amaze me that in the midst of the physical and emotional agony of the cross, Jesus was able to look at the very people crucifying him and say — and, of course, mean — ”Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do”.
So how did he do it?
According to Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy, a key aspect of Jesus’ Christian practice was his absolute consistency in rising above the surface view of what others were thinking and doing to what God was knowing of them spiritually.
She wrote: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 476)
He “beheld” in this way even those who so unjustly nailed him to that cross.
So what about us? What if we are feeling aghast and fearful at what we rightly see as the barbaric actions of terrorists around the world — from Brussels to Istanbul to Iskanderiyah to Grand-Bassam to Lahore?
Can we actually take up the challenge of accepting that Jesus’ forgiving love on the cross was an example to strive to follow, rather than a show of spiritual strength from another time and place, to be admired from a distance?
Surely, it would be a powerful, healing thing for us to do in the light of the fear and hatred manifesting themselves in such wanton acts of violence, and in some of the public and political reactions to them.
Could the stand Jesus took inspire us, too, to pray to the point where we can glimpse that “perfect man” — the spiritual selfhood that underlies even those driven by mortal hatred to commit such deadly acts of terror?
That’s by no means an easy demand. But it can be done.
A fellow church member took up the challenge to do this during a year of violent confrontation between two political factions in her country. It had led to several fatalities. One night, she saw the political figure she most despised on the news, but this time she glimpsed her profound need to pray until she rose above her hatred and saw him from a more spiritual perspective. And she committed herself to doing just that — however long it took — before she went to sleep that night.
After two hours of humbly and prayerfully seeking a diviner view, she got to the point where she actually felt God’s love for the true individuality of the person she had previously classified as Public Enemy Number One.
Interestingly, the year-long stand-off ended later that same week.
Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not. Jesus’ forgiveness of his persecutors on the cross was certainly not the end of the crucifixion story. It was a crucial factor in his subsequent victory over death and the grave which is the joy at the heart of the Easter story. It enabled him to maintain that consciousness of divine Love’s infinite allness which was able to achieve the resurrection and lift him still further, beyond the perception of the material senses, in his final ascension that has inspired generations since.
Many of us who follow his teachings today would affirm that we, too, have seen our own more modest victories through yielding to Love’s divine view of ourselves and our neighbours. Doing so has proved powerful enough to heal discord in our families, workplaces and communities.
Is that enough? Or can we contribute something of value to the wider and more lethal manifestations of divisiveness?
That’s not to say society should ignore the crimes committed. Nor does it suggest that justice shouldn’t take it’s course or that we can afford to lessen our efforts at tightening up security.
But the world is also in need of the healing power of Christly forgiveness, to bear on the deeper roots of the divisions within our nations and across borders — divisions that would shred the very fabric of unity and civility which evidence the underlying spiritual oneness of humanity as the sons and daughters of God.
Can we take up the challenge laid down by the Easter example?
This blog was first posted on Medium as: Can Easter inspire us to love our deadliest enemies?