Praying for Human Rights

LIKE many other people, I watch the daily news reports telling of official oppression in many countries with a mixture of dismay and horror. I have been shocked when a government turns its troops on its own citizens. But I remembered the civil rights and antiwar protests in my own country where authority had sometimes dealt brutally with protestors. And at first this made me feel even sadder. Then I realized that I needed a clearer sense of what government is. As a Christian, I needed to pray to understand the presence of God's government in the world.

God's government isn't an abstract concept. It has already been demonstrated on earth through the life of Christ Jesus and through many of his followers -- in his age and ours. We know from the Gospels that Jesus freed people from the injustice of sin and sickness; he even raised the dead. In this way he was fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy of the Christ that says: ``The government shall be upon his shoulder.''1

Yet even while Jesus did his wonderful works, those who were jealous joined with those who feared his power. By crucifying him, his enemies hoped to reverse the growing spiritual freedom that Jesus' teachings were bringing about.

But the spiritual concepts that Jesus taught were not subject to such violent repression. And history shows that Christianity prevailed over its oppressors and is still prevailing.

But what about today? How can we be certain that right ideas -- those that tend toward good, liberty, justice, freedom -- will prevail?

Over the short run, the scene may look grim. People's suffering may seem unbearable. We need both compassion for the sacrifices people are making on behalf of an idea and a willingness to look beyond the suffering to see the presence of God with them. If we pray deeply about these ideals, we come to some specific conclusions about the rights of man and his true nature.

The Bible teaches us that man is wholly spiritual, the child of God. From this standpoint, man must be free. As the child of a God who is Love, man cannot be buried in slavery or persecution. This spirituality is everyone's true nature.

The longing for physical and mental freedom, then, is actually part of the spiritual impulsion that comes as we understand man's spiritual identity as God's child, free under His law. Whatever oppresses or stands in the way of that longing for spirituality sooner or later must be put off. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Discerning the rights of man, we cannot fail to foresee the doom of all oppression. Slavery is not the legitimate state of man. God made man free.''2

In our prayers, we can seek to understand more fully that the legitimate state of man is freedom and that this spiritual truth is even now working in the world. True government is not constituted of mortals who are power hungry or fear change. Instead, we can know that the government is ``upon his shoulder'' -- upon the shoulder of the Christ, Truth, that Jesus lived.

This is not to say that miraculously everything will suddenly be cleared up in our lives or in the world. But we will find greater individual willingness to stand up for freedom. And a clearer sense of God's love for us and for humanity will become evident as a result. Through such living, we begin to reform not just our own surroundings but the world.

1Isaiah 9:6. 2Science and Health, p. 227.

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