IT seems ironic to be writing about slavery more than a hundred years after slaves were freed in the United States and the practice of slavery has fallen out of favor in the civilized world. Yet many people--including children-- are still enslaved. Some of them are literally sold into servitude; others endure emotional or economic bondage.
For some of us, the fight against slavery may take the form of supporting organizations that monitor such abuses or that work directly to eliminate them. Yet there is something all of us can do, and that is to pray for the freedom of humanity around the globe as well as in our own communities.
Many people are lured into bondage because they believe they have no worth and thus have no hope for something better. Others are tricked into arrangements that are little more than servitude by those who make false promises. Once they are in these relationships, self-condemnation and hopelessness may result.
Our prayers can directly address these problems by recognizing the power of God to set man free. In the book, To Be A Slave, author Julius Lester shares these lines from a Negro spiritual. They are based on the Bible's account of how God saved Daniel when he was cast into a den of lions:
Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel,
Deliver Daniel, deliver Daniel?
Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel,
Then why not every man? (p. 83).
The saving message of God's deliverance is as valid for people today--no matter why they are enslaved--and it can be the cornerstone of our prayers. We can directly address conditions that lead people into slavery by understanding the true nature of everyone. The Bible tells us in First John: ``Beloved, now are we the sons of God'' (3:2). Now! Our sonship with God isn't a future hope, it is a present fact. And each of us is the heir to this promise. To be sons and daughters of God is to be spiritual, the children of divine Love.
Love's purpose for its offspring can't possibly be suffering and bondage. If it were, the creator wouldn't be Love. But God is Love. The impossibility of God's inflicting hardship is evident when we realize that God is infinite Love.
As we accept this, our prayers become more confident because we are recognizing that slavery is unnatural, no part of anyone's real purpose. Even a glimpse of this fact is like the leaven Christ Jesus told about, which a woman mixed into three measures of meal (see Luke 13:21). It only takes a small amount of leaven to change a large quantity of flour. Similarly, even if our prayers seem tiny against the mindset that finds slavery acceptable, our persistence counts.
Our increasing knowledge that Love is present and that man is its much-cherished offspring is leaven within our thought. It gives us new strength to resist any evidence of slavery by turning in prayer to divine Love and affirming its power to set humanity free.
Knowing ourselves and others to be spiritual totally eliminates the belief that man is merely a mortal entity, more a ``thing'' than an intelligent, God-directed being. This mortal basis is the one on which slavery would claim to operate. As our prayers affirm that in truth we are all spiritual, the sons and daughters of divine Love, they open the way for new views of humanity to appear. Merit, intelligence, value, and goodness--the specific identity created by God for His own purpose--become more evident in all people. And as this occurs, freedom comes also.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, speaks more than once of the ability of God, Truth, to set humanity free from whatever bondage might hold it. In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she writes: ``Truth brings the elements of liberty. On its banner is the Soul-inspired motto, `Slavery is abolished.' The power of God brings deliverance to the captive. No power can withstand divine Love'' (p. 224).
This is why turning our thought toward infinite Love is of such value. Love frees all because it eliminates ignorance and fear, no matter what form they take. And in our prayers we can affirm this. Can anyone really resist this redeeming power of divine Love? Sometimes it seems so. But we can remember that divine Love is present everywhere, and no one can ever be cut off from its infinite power. Such persistence will ultimately win the day, even if the battle seems long and difficult. Through our prayers, we are hastening the day when we will be able to answer the question in that spiritual by saying that, in fact, every man (and woman and child) is free.
Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
And early in the morning
he came again into the temple,
and all the people came unto him;
and he sat down,
and taught them. . . .
If ye continue in my word,
then are ye my disciples indeed;
and ye shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free. . . .
If the Son therefor
shall make you free,
ye shall be free indeed.
John 8:1, 2, 31, 32, 36