The United States has yet to achieve "liberty and justice for all" – the concluding words of its Pledge of Allegiance – but few would deny that the nation has made great strides in that direction. In part, Black History Month celebrates that progress toward freedom.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus recognized people's need for freedom – regardless of race – and he explained how to get it. He said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). If to "know the truth" means to know God, divine Truth, Jesus' promise can be paraphrased this way: "Ye shall know divine Truth, and divine Truth shall make you free."
Knowing God as divine Truth includes understanding and believing what's divinely true about ourselves and others – that God created us in His image (see Gen. 1:27). Viewing others from that perspective makes hatred hard to justify.
Perhaps that's the reason love, like truth, figures so prominently in Jesus' teachings. In his Sermon on the Mount, he said, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies ..." (Matt. 5:43, 44).
The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, emphasized the power of divine Love as well. In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" she identified Love as a synonym for God (see p. 587) and explained, "... Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity" (p. 517).
Importing that "clearest idea of Deity" into Jesus' statement sheds new light on freedom with this paraphrase: "Ye shall know divine Love, and divine Love shall make you free." Free of hatred, envy, strife, even of physical and mental illnesses. But also free to see the reality of each individual's spiritual nature as the son and daughter of an all-loving God.
The Negro spiritual that Dr. Martin Luther King quoted at the end of his "I have a dream" speech makes a specific connection between love and freedom as well. The speech concludes, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!" The Negro spiritual ends, "For I never felt such a love before,/ Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last."
That love "never felt ... before" is God's liberating love, the driving force behind Dr. King's fight for civil rights. In a sermon titled "Loving your enemies," King described a few strategic reasons for loving those who hate you. Then he noted, "An even more basic reason why we are commanded to love is expressed explicitly in Jesus' words, 'Love your enemies ... that ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven.' " And a few lines later he added, "We must love our enemies, because only by loving them can we know God and experience the beauty of his holiness" ("Strength to Love," p. 55).
Hating our enemies blinds us to God's love for us – and for them. God is Love and God is All, so He can't know anything unlike Love. And as God's ideas, or reflection, we can't know anything unlike Love either. That doesn't appear to be the case from our limited, mortal perspective, but as we replace our material view of things with the divine reality, whatever basis for hatred we thought existed disappears.
That change – or spiritualization – of thought and action is the only way to keep our end of the bargain. Both Jesus and King urge us to know God, divine Love, by living love. And if we do our part, God will certainly do His: Divine Love will make us free. And not only will those who love their enemies be freed, but the enemies themselves will be released from hatred's grasp. That's the way divine Love operates – impartially, universally, unconditionally, irresistibly.
Mrs. Eddy wrote, "Love is the liberator" (Science and Health, p. 225.) King and his followers proved that fact in their day, and we can continue to prove it in ours.