I’m so grateful for the opportunity to attend and be a part of the planning committee for the 39th Annual Women’s Interfaith Conference in St. Louis, Missouri.
Two panelists, a younger and older generation, from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Baha’i faith traditions participated and shared stories and faith practices from their traditions that have inspired, encouraged, and challenged them to grow more spiritually. This event was filled with love, peace, and mutual understanding.
I’m grateful for events such as these to break down ignorance and fear of the “other” that leads to discrimination, prejudice, and hatred. With the hate crimes and prejudice that are on display around the world, it is important not to believe that living in fear of our neighbors is the answer or normative.
Instead, we are called to build bridges of understanding and empathy with fellow humans even if we don’t agree. More important than being “right” about our own opinions is the way we live with our neighbors/brothers/sisters by treating others the way we want to be treated.
This Bible statement is so valuable:
if we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see? 1 John 4:20
Sometimes it’s easier to love God than to love people. After all God is perfect Spirit and Love who doesn’t cause any evil or discord. Pretty easy to love a Being like that! As hard as it can be, I’m beginning to see that my love for God has to be expressed by my love for my neighbors, even those with other political viewpoints and who live differently than I do. Love has to be big enough to include everyone.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus responds to the question “who is my neighbor” by pointing out to his audience that the commandment of love for neighbor has to include foreigners, people from other countries who have different cultures and traditions than his own. How important and timely this message is! I love how relevant passages and stories such as these are.
When we had an incident with a neighbor in which the harmonious and peaceful state of our home was interrupted, it was tempting to act with frustration, indignation and self-justification. But as I prayed to find peace, reading Jesus example of living a life of fearless, inclusive love changed me. It showed me I had to overcome the desire to simply flee, but I had to respond with spiritual love and take a stand for man being the image and likeness of God. I found satisfaction, comfort, and a renewed sense of purpose in praying for my neighbors and seeing all of them through God’s eyes.
Imagine if every person on the planet stood guard over his and her consciousness filling it with love, peace, respect, interest in and care for others. Where would the hate go? It would disappear! “If mortals would keep proper ward over mortal mind, the brood of evils which infest it would be cleared out.” (Eddy, Science and Health, p.234) The more we keep our consciousness filled with light, love, and goodness, the more we will manifest. We can overcome fear of the “other” and understand we all have so much in common with one another.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It’s important to teach this to our children as well. Hatred, ignorance, and prejudice do not have to be passed down generation to generation. We can teach and model what it means to be global citizens — to have respect and interest in those who are different than us: different skin color, places of worship, or different cultures. They are so receptive to goodness and naturally find much in common with their neighbors. It is so inspiring to be around children who love and express joy so easily. Children have a natural openness and curiosity about others that can be nurtured and encouraged.
As we strive to see everyone through the lens of Love, we will see more beauty and goodness in the world. We will see beautiful expressions of the Creator. As children of one Spirit, we are each naturally attracted to light, spirituality, joy, and love. Just like plants turn naturally towards sunlight, we can naturally turn towards the light of love. We are each the valuable and loved expressions of God and can share that love together today.