MUCH has been said and written about liberty and patriotism in the months since the Oklahoma City bombing in the United States. The importance of this discussion isn't limited just to North America, however. People of other nations, especially those at war, are also grappling with questions regarding freedom and violence.
One thing we might all agree on is that true liberty cannot be preserved through hate, which by its nature breeds suspicion and division. The progress in Northern Ireland and South Africa's relatively peaceful transition to a more open government were made possible, at least in part, by people's willingness to give up old hatreds.
Perhaps some who have come face to face with violence may feel that this is impossible to do. Giving up hatred isn't always easy, but it is possible! Here we can turn to the example of Christ Jesus, who, just prior to his arrest and crucifixion, told his followers, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. . . . This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you" (John 15:9, 12). By themselves, those words are beautiful; but they gain incredible power when we consider what happened next. Jesus was beaten, mocked, degraded, and brutally crucified. Despite the way he had been treated, however, he lived what he taught and fully forgave those who had put him on the cross. His resurrection was proof of his freedom from hatred and his unity with God, divine Love.
It is clear from his ministry that Jesus' concept of love did not include accepting sin, hatred, corruption, or evil-doing of any kind. Throughout his ministry, his prayers wiped out sin and other evils by opening the eyes of people to their real being as the sons and daughters of God. When they saw even a tiny bit of their spiritual nature, these people were set on a new course of life. They were truly free.
The power behind Jesus' healing work was love, which had its source in God, divine Love. Living in accord with omnipotent Love is totally different from making attempts to love others because we think we should or because others are telling us to do so. When we perceive the infinite nature of Love-its continuously outpouring good-we find it natural for the tightness and confining focus of hatred to dissolve. We also begin to understand that violence can never bring about a true liberation.
In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, speaks several times of the Civil War in the United States in the 1860s. In one place 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" (p. 225).
As we examine ourselves, it is possible that we will see some places in our thought where we have been indulging in hatred-perhaps it has taken form as intense partisanship in politics, in church matters, or in conditions at work or school. While on the surface these things may seem justifiable, they tend to distort rather than enhance our views of reality.
Spiritualizing our thoughts corrects our view of events and of how we are spending our lives. Not only do we change, but we become more open to opportunities for good that may well bring about the change in conditions that we earnestly desire. Love by its nature unites and inspires, and when we accept its powerful work in our lives, we are less likely to be drawn into situations where violence seems necessary or acceptable. We also gain a clearer understanding of God's purpose for us individually as well as for His creation.
True freedom comes to our individual nations and to the world at large as we gain-and practice-the Christly love that Jesus set out for our example. At times, practicing love may be quite demanding. But the freedom love gains for us is everlasting.
Healing through prayer is explored in more detail in a weekly magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel.