OVER the centuries, freedom has often been thought of as primarily an outward, possibly political, condition. In fact, this view of liberty must have been what certain Jews who were believers on Christ Jesus thought of when he told them that if they knew the truth, they would be free. John records their answer, ``We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?'' It was a good question! Jesus' answer pointed them beyond mere political freedom to what might be called inner, or spiritual, freedom. He told them that whoever sinned was the servant of sin and was denying the freedom that is part of man's spiritual heritage from God. He directly linked true freedom to a knowledge of himself and the spiritual laws he was teaching.
Neither freedom nor slavery is limited to outward, political conditions. We can enslave ourselves to hatred, to sensuality, to jealousy, for instance. But the spiritual fact is that we can also set ourselves free if we are willing to pray and to follow Jesus' example. Embracing such spiritual freedom can bring more peace to those around us and can help our nations as well.
To begin, we need to discern what is governing our thoughts. Are we fearful of certain racial or ethnic groups? Are we jealous? Do we hate people of certain religions? These attitudes are examples of mental slavery. They stem from seeing ourselves and others as primarily material entities, who are struggling for crumbs of finite resources -- whether these be jobs, homes, or other opportunities.
If that were all there is to man, things would be grim indeed! But Jesus made clear that man's relationship to God is spiritual and that we cannot be separated from God. Accepting and understanding this divine fact as true about ourselves brings us freedom from mental slavery, from whatever would claim to separate us from God.
This may not come about all at once. We have to be willing to give up old hatreds and fears and to learn to trust God's, Love's, government of our lives. A first step we can take is to try to express more love toward ourselves and others. Love is the antidote to hatred, to fear, and to any kind of slavery. But this love is more than just a human emotion because it has its source in God, divine Love. It expresses the pure and spiritual love that Christ Jesus had for mankind.
Living this love on a daily basis isn't always an easy task! In speaking of the freeing of the slaves that took place as a result of the American Civil War, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Legally to abolish unpaid servitude in the United States was hard; but the abolition of mental slavery is a more difficult task.'' And she continues, ``Men and women of all climes and races are still in bondage to material sense, ignorant how to obtain their freedom.''
But if we are actively loving our fellow men and women -- regardless of race and ethnic or religious background -- we are taking at least a first step toward experiencing this freedom. When we realize that God loves all of us equally, we also begin to see that God's love for the individual we may think we hate doesn't deprive us of any love. It isn't that God loves that person more or less than He loves us; it is that we are all loved of Love.
This unity in Love, in God, can bring about major changes in our lives. We begin to realize that we have an active stake in freedom. To the degree that I hate my neighbor or ``those (fill in the blanks)'' I am unfree because I am locked into the mental slavery of hatred.
Sometimes I've found it helpful to acknowledge that God loves the individual I find so repugnant and then ask myself, ``What is it that God loves?'' The answer very often comes in terms of spiritual qualities such as intelligence, wit, beauty, devotion -- qualities that I can also love. As I've got busy looking for what God is loving, I've come myself to see the spiritual aspect of an individual. And this has forever changed my relationship to the person, setting me free from whatever fears and worries I may have had.
Thinking in spiritual terms about our fellow humans, trying to see the spiritual qualities they express, is a very real part of following Christ Jesus' example. It helps us to give up stereotypes about certain people or groups. But more than this, it begins to help us feel the freedom to express love in a more universal way.
This freedom to love reaches beyond our immediate circumstances because as we love more, this love touches others, who touch still others. It is a love that can transform our lives and may ultimately transform our nations. BIBLE VERSE: Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. ...Now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
Romans 6:16, 17, 22