MORE than a decade ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of his vision that someday people of all races would be equal and free. Although there has been much progress over the years, continuing news reports of conflict make it clear that more prayer is needed if the vision of social equality is ever to come true. At first the thought of praying for racial harmony might seem impractical. Yet the civil rights movement in the United States relied heavily on religion and on prayer as it faced and overcame challenges. Dr. King put it this way, as Stephen Oates's biography of him (Let the Trumpet Sound) records: ``Our capacity to deal creatively with shattered dreams is ultimately determined by our faith in God.... However dismal and catastrophic may be the present circumstances, we know we are not alone.''
This certainty of God's presence and His justice has been an element of Christianity throughout its history. It was expressed by the Apostle Paul, who endured suffering and hatred as he endeavored to spread Christ Jesus' healing message of man's spirituality and his inseparability from God. Like the Master's other followers, Paul knew that if people understood their actual spiritual nature, their lives would change. Instead of thinking of themselves as rich, poor, members of certain privileged (or despised) classes, they would begin to see that they are the sons and daughters of God.
In a letter to the Christians at Galatia, he said as much, declaring, ``Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.... There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.''
As we accept this spiritual fact about ourselves, we change thought and begin to experience freedom from personal, social, or cultural limitations. This happens because we are giving up a belief in ourselves as limited, isolated beings. If we perceive even a little of our true nature as spiritual, then we are better able to see that human background can't be the limit it seems to be. We relate directly to God as our Father.
Recognizing this God, our Father, to be all-loving toward His whole family changes forever how we think of our fellowman. And this necessarily requires that we give up superiority, inferiority, or stereotypes. In this way, we begin to experience equality in Christ, the true idea of God and of man.
Why should we do this? For one thing, it is necessary if we are to be obedient to Christ Jesus' teachings. He told us to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. It's impossible truly to love others if we're thinking of them as nice people but inferior because they are identified with a particular heritage. When we think of others in those ways, we are not just endeavoring to deprive them of their true status as the children of God. We are also cheapening our view of ourselves and what it means to be God's offspring.
When we spiritualize our thoughts of ourselves and others, however, we are claiming our actual spiritual freedom and our unbreakable unity with God. This spiritual relationship gives us the confidence and joy that make it possible to repair shattered dreams and to make new ones come true.
As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``The enslavement of man is not legitimate. It will cease when man enters into his heritage of freedom, his God-given dominion over the material senses.''
Accepting man's truly spiritual nature is the only way to free ourselves and others of the material stereotypes that would separate us. And each of us can begin to work toward this freedom from material enslavement today. We can start by endeavoring to love our fellowman in everyday life, and not limit anyone by categorizing him or her in stereotyped ways that would hide each person's true individuality and spiritual worth. And when we hear reports of racial difficulties, whether in our own town or somewhere in the world, we can pray to know that God, infinite Love, is present and that Love's purpose for man is always peace and freedom.
Such steps begin to change the way we think about ourselves and our neighbors -- whether around the block or around the globe. And our growing awareness of each one's equality in Christ enables us to help the human community work toward fulfilling the dream of racial harmony and justice for all mankind.
You can find more articles about spiritual healing in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.
And as Peter was coming in,
Cornelius met him....
And as he talked with him,
he went in, and found many
that were come together....
Then Peter opened his mouth,
Of a truth I perceive that God
is no respecter of persons:
but in every nation
he that feareth him,
and worketh righteousness,
is accepted with him.
Acts 10:25, 27, 34, 35