EARLIER this year, The New York Times ran an article describing a business gimmick that had turned into a land rush in China. An enterprising company in the United States was selling deeds to a square inch of land in each of the fifty states. But what was purely a novelty to many became serious business in China, the article reported.
People there believed--mistakenly--that owning even a square inch of property would help them get a visa to a free country. And some of them were willing to sacrifice up to $1,700 for at least the right to hope for freedom.
What is it that fuels such desires? Isn't it the longing to be free to express ourselves, to pro-gress, to learn, and to act without fear of oppression? While the quest for liberty often takes a political direction--hope for a change in government, perhaps, or for a move to a new country--the roots of freedom go much deeper. The Bible speaks, for example, of the Israelites' journey from bondage in Egypt to eventual peace in the Promised Land as a quest for freedom. The story of their trials, as they lear ned the spiritual basis of true liberty, is almost like a parable for our times. They faced discouraging obstacles in the form of the desert and of aggressive enemies. Internal bickering, confusion, and distrust of their leaders are recurring themes. But through it all, the theme of man's relationship to God emerges and gives focus to their lives.
Moses' ministry was designed specifically to show the Israelites that man has a special relationship to God. Under the direction of divine Mind, God, they received food and drink and were protected from their enemies. When they deviated from God's guidance, however, they got into trouble--just as someone who takes a wrong turn and goes off the main road. In essence, the Israelites were learning that the way to gain permanent freedom is to live in obedience to God.
One of the most eloquent statements of this relationship between humanity and Deity is in the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible. There, Moses tells the people, ``See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; in that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.''
No matter what political system we live under, each of us can know the freedom and prosperity that come from such obedience to God. And whether our quest brings us literally into a promised land or transforms the land we are in, the cause of freedom is furthered by every individual contribution through prayer.
Such prayer requires us to recognize and to be grateful for any freedom we already express, however small. The freedom to breathe, to see, to hear, to think--these might be grist for our gratitude. But we can expand these ideas to include a more spiritual aspect.
We can be grateful for the provable fact that man is spiritual and can never be separated from God. Christ Jesus brought out this point again and again. That it is still true is illustrated by the experience of many people who have been helped to freedom through prayer.
We can see the power of this spiritual law in our individual lives by expressing love, intelligence, goodness, and joy. And we broaden the scope of our prayers when we look for evidences of these and other spiritual qualities in others-- even in those we may think of as enemies.
While we should never excuse wrongdoing, we can pray to know that God's man is spiritual. Therefore he is lawful, wise, pure, and good. These qualities, wherever we find them, are what is real and worthy of our respect. Whatever opposes these and similar attributes is actually powerless to touch our real being because we are, in reality, totally spiritual. Understanding these spiritual facts not only helps us to build bridges to others; it also reveals to us something of Spirit's, of God's, omnipresence.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, has much to say about freedom in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. In one place she writes: ``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.''
Wherever we are in the world, each of us has daily opportunities to work and pray for freedom. For some of us it may be the need for freedom from pressure or from fear of failure. Others may pray for freedom from illness or doubt. And still others labor for liberty by striving to throw off oppression.
As we individually do this work, we may feel at times as though our progress out of captivity is small--perhaps it seems not unlike the square-inch parcels of land that fueled Chinese hopes of freedom. But as we persist in prayer, we'll find that the light of liberty is cumulative and shines ever more clearly and brightly for us and for our nations.
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? . . . Then shall thy light break forth as the morning. Isaiah 58:6, 8