ONE can't read or hear news reports of the situation in Latvia and Lithuania without having one's heart wrung with sympathy. The struggle for freedom, which those in long-established democracies so often take for granted, involves the highest aspirations of mankind. Yet, as these events show, freedom based on merely political circumstances, however benign these may seem, can be lost all too quickly. Such liberation seems subject to chance, to whim, to a twist of fate. The question then arises: where does true liberty come from? In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, puts freedom on a spiritual basis. She writes: ``A few immortal sentences, breathing the omnipotence of divine justice, have been potent to break despotic fetters and abolish the whipping-post and slave market; but oppression neither went down in blood, nor did the breath of freedom come from the cannon's mouth. Love is the liberator.'' Permanent liberty is not the product of ``the cannon's mouth.'' If those struggling for freedom feel that independence comes from warring with others, they will never find real security. There will always be new threats to their freedom. In this way, ``the cannon's mouth'' continues to hold mankind hostage.
True liberty comes from a change of thought and life, from expressing the kind of love that Christ Jesus' whole life illustrated. In the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew's Gospel, he declared, ``Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.''
Our prayers, then, can start by acknowledging the presence of God, of divine Love, in our individual lives. And since Love is infinite, there is no place that is outside its influence. Even if we can't -- or shouldn't -- go to the places we are praying about, we can affirm the presence of Love, the liberator, in our prayers. Such prayer is not futile: it brings about a subtle but important change in our thoughts and lives.
As we pray, we begin to see that everyone -- oppressors and oppressed -- needs to feel God's love. So often oppressors are, in fact, motivated by fear. This may involve dread that they will lose power or control, or fear that they will be attacked or overcome. But whatever the source of the fear, we can, through our prayers, recognize that no one can be cut off from divine Love.
We also need to live that love by expressing it to others, just as Jesus did. This isn't always easy, because spiritually based love doesn't allow condescension, resentment, or jealousy to lurk in the background. Being genuinely loving toward our neighbors may be hard, and loving our enemies may seem impossible, at times. But this is the task Christ Jesus has set before us.
Even the smallest prayers and the simplest efforts to replace anger with love have an impact. The love we strive to express to our fellow humans is felt by them and influences how they treat us and others they meet. Our willingness truly to love, to see our fellow beings in spiritual terms, makes us indeed children of our Father, of God. And to be children of Love, the liberator, is to be at the forefront of all efforts for freedom.
As we pray in this way -- and endeavor to live the spiritual love we have been praying for -- we begin to see that in truth, man comes from and abides in God. And as we understand this to be true in our individual lives, it frees us from fear and loss. Through our prayers, we can extend this knowledge and love to all -- including those throughout the world who are bravely striving for freedom.