EVEN the words on his gravestone mark the vital importance freedom had for Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Free at last, free at last, Thank God Almighty I'm free at last. King was a powerful spokesperson for the idea of freedom for all. His nonviolent protests against unjust limitations and restrictions on the basis of race were a big step toward increased freedom for many Americans--and ultimately for all of humanity as more of the barriers of hatred and inequality are being removed.
Freedom includes the rejection of repression, limitation, and restriction. It includes not being under the unjust control of another but independent, free to make one's own responsible decisions and choices.
Important strides have been made worldwide toward greater individual freedom. Free elections have been held recently in countries where no choice was before available. In other countries there is freedom to worship openly where this freedom was repressed for years. And there has been increased freedom of the press and other media in some places. We can be grateful for these signs of growing freedom in the world today.
But perhaps there is an aspect of freedom we have not really considered before. Our need for freedom includes more than simply being released from control by another individual. What about freedom from the enslavement imposed by sin, disease, and death? Aren't these enslaving elements of human life attempting to hold us in bondage to the belief that life is based on matter? In bondage to the belief that reality is material? Can we gain freedom from these oppressors, or are they an unavoidable part of lif e?
Christ Jesus certainly didn't view sin, disease, and death as natural or inevitable. They aren't, in fact, something that must be borne. Their enslavement is, rather, something to be overcome. The Gospels include many instances of Jesus' healing sin and disease, and even instances of his restoring to life those believed to be dead. Jesus accomplished these healings through the power of God, good.
It seems clear that Jesus understood that man had a right to be free of the enslaving conditions of sin, disease, and death. He didn't accept these conditions but healed them and restored people's freedom. The book of John, for example, records Jesus' explanation of man's right to be free in this way: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, 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. They answered him, We be Abr aham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. . . . If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, urges mankind to be free of the oppression of sin, disease, and death. She writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: "Christian Science raises the standard of liberty and cries: 'Follow me! Escape from the bondage of sickness, sin, and death!' Jesus marked out the way. Citizens of the world, accept the 'glorious liberty of the children of God,' and be free! This is your divine right.
Mrs. Eddy also relied on God's power and brought healing to many people. Many others have been healed through reading Science and Health and learning how to turn to God themselves. These healings have resulted in increased freedom for those healed, and thus in increased freedom for the world as a whole, from the enslavement of disease, sin, and death.
One evening when my daughter was in grade school she told me that her stomach hurt. We turned to God in prayer. We also began to read passages in the Bible that were familiar and dearly loved to us, such as the Lord's Prayer. While reading and praying in this way, I also turned to Science and Health, where I came to a statement that spoke so directly to our situation that I stopped and read it several times. It was this: "The Christian Scientist has enlisted to lessen evil, disease, and death; and he wil l overcome them by understanding their nothingness and the allness of God, or good.
I realized that here was an opportunity to lessen disease. As I thought about God as All and good, I saw that evil in any form is not good and cannot be a part of that allness and goodness. And therefore they have no true power or right to enslave man. God made everything in His image and likeness, spiritual and good. With the realization that God never made that pain--that my daughter had a right to be free of it--she very soon was completely well.
We are all God's children and have the God-given right to be free of the enslaving beliefs of sin, disease, and death. We need not accept such conditions as legitimate or inevitable. As we begin to challenge such conditions, we will see, as Paul says in II Corinthians, "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. And we will see more of that liberty in our lives each day.
The Spirit of the Lord God
is upon me;
because the Lord hath anointed me
to preach good tidings unto the meek;
he hath sent me
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison
to them that are bound.