THROUGHOUT many years abroad, I had learned to see through stereo-typical images of different countries and their people. There is a common humanity we all share. However, I was totally unprepared for the challenges that greeted me on one of my trips. As a business traveler in a particular country I was exposed to situations of oppression that the average tourist would not encounter. Even in the very poorest of countries I had always found a fighting spirit. But here there seemed to be an absolute lack of morale. The general atmosphere of fear and repression overwhelmed me, and I became very depressed. I prayed for an answer.
In Job we read, ``There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.''1 And in II Corinthians, ``Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.''2 These statements point to a freedom more fundamental than political liberty, cherished as that is -- a freedom to which everyone has access. It is the freedom to know God directly and to live in harmony with Him. Such spiritual freedom is upheld by God.
Despite this truth, it appeared that political dogma, not ``the Spirit of the Lord,'' governed this country and that ``the inspiration of the Almighty'' just wasn't getting through.
I prayed to see the man that God creates, His spiritual image, who includes love of life and freedom from fear. I prayed to see in these people the ability to discern between truth and error and the courage both to speak the truth and to stand with it. These qualities are sustained by God and cannot be snuffed out.
The next day I met two young men who were eager to discuss many issues of deep concern -- ideas about God, truth, and man. They were thrilled to find someone with whom they could speak freely. Although they had had little access to organized religion, they were utterly convinced that God exists and that man has a spiritual nature, that he's much more than simply a biological mechanism. They told me that there were many small and mostly deserted churches in the countryside where they would go to think because they could feel a deep sense of Spirit and peace there. They did not want to emigrate, however, because they loved their people. They were able to distinguish between their country and the political regime in power. They were finding God right where they were.
These talks were not just the answer to their prayers. They were the answer to mine! I began to see ``the Spirit of the Lord'' operating where before I had seen only mental darkness. Soon I was invited to visit the parents of a friend from the United States. This couple had lost their employment two years earlier when their application for emigration visas was refused. They had no idea if or when they would be allowed to leave. As we spoke, I saw the same courage and love of life I had seen in the two young men. And I prayed to understand that God's man could never be confined by oppression.
By the time my stay concluded, my impression of this country was different. I was convinced of God's power to communicate directly His inspiration and guidance to His offspring. I no longer believed that human influences could shut out the voice of God.
On arriving home, I learned that only two days after our visit, my friend's parents had been granted exit visas. A few months later they were united with their son and his family in New York.
One section of the Christian Science textbook discusses specifically man's inner God-given liberty as it relates to freedom from sickness and sin as well as social injustice. The author, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes: ``God has built a higher platform of human rights, and He has built it on diviner claims. These claims are not made through code or creed, but in demonstration of `on earth peace, good-will toward men.'''3 And she says further on, ``Discerning the rights of man, we cannot fail to foresee the doom of all oppression.''4
Our God-given liberty cannot be taken away. Although our present recognition of this spiritual fact may be minimal, the fact nonetheless remains for us to accept and demonstrate. To some degree I witnessed this freedom in both the couple who left their country and the two young men who stayed. Spiritual freedom lies far beyond the reach of political or psychological oppression, because it abides within the heart and soul of each of us. And here it is safely protected by God, no matter where we live.
1Job 32:8. 2II Corinthians 3:17. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 226. 4Ibid., p. 227.
DAILY BIBLE VERSE: I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.