Lessening violence in our communities can be a matter of a God-inspired thought. For an inmate at a Pennsylvania penitentiary, it was a powerful thought that inspired him not to kill another inmate in the jail. The thought was that he was truly created by God and that meant he was naturally inclined to love his neighbor. Understanding that he was a child of God inspired him to think of the other inmate that way, too. Such thinking can be an inspiration for all of us seeking healing in our communities.
What stopped Marcus from killing someone was learning that he was a child of God.
Marcus (not his real name) was an inmate in a Pennsylvania jail when my friend Dave met him. Dave was there as a representative of the local Church of Christ, Scientist, to give a ministerial talk. The crux of what he told them dealt with gaining a better understanding of man’s true existence as a creation of the Divine, naturally inclined to love one’s neighbor as one’s self, as the Bible often states (see for example Leviticus 19:18 and Galatians 5:14).
Dave told me: “After my talk, Marcus, a great big guy, came up to me and said, ‘Man, you really messed me up. You were talking about what it means to be a child of God. That’s who I really am.’ Then he said, ‘I want to tell you, before this talk, they brought a guy into the jail, and he and I have had this thing going on out on the street back and forth, and I said to myself, I’m going to kill him. Today’s the day. I don’t care what happens to me, we’re going to end this thing, right here, right now.’ ” All Dave could do was keep listening.
“He said, ‘And then, for some reason, I decided to come hear this stupid talk. And now I’ve got to go back to my cell, and I’ve got to think about myself as a child of God and what that means, and I’ve got to think about him that way too, don’t I?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you do.’ By this time, tears were streaming down his face. He gave me a big bear hug and said, ‘Thanks for messing me up, man.’ ”
Would that more people could be “messed up” like this, open to the transformative influence of the Christ – “the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness,” as Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy puts it (“Science and Health with Key the Scriptures,” p. 332) – reminding us of our eternal oneness with God, good. By accepting this divinely inspired view of ourselves, reformation can begin.
The truth is, there are probably a lot more people open to this sort of transformation than we think. Not that you could just walk into your local prison, tell everyone they’re a child of God, and hope for the best. But when spoken with the conviction that comes from truly seeing individuals being so much more than what their rap sheet, their family history, or even their demoralized opinion of themselves may suggest, this spiritual idea of them can have a huge impact.
This isn’t always easy. It is, however, essential if we are to have any hope of reducing violence in our communities – an effort made easier as we’re both receptive and responsive to the love that God, divine Love itself, has given us to express and to see expressed in others.