The courage and determination of the youth in Myanmar as they protest the military coup that ousted their democratically elected government in February has held the attention of the whole world. Young people have come out in droves to proclaim what they innately believe they have a right to receive: freedom and justice. Last weekend, peaceful protests resulted in tragedy as many were slain in an attempt by the military to quell resistance to its unpopular regime.
I am struck by this example of taking an unfaltering stand for what is right. And as we head into Easter this weekend, I’m reminded of the man who, more than anyone before or since, demonstrated the path to freedom from tyranny and oppression of all kinds: Christ Jesus.
In synagogues, marketplaces, and even the homes of influential civic leaders, Jesus “protested” a limiting, material view of what we are. His healing ministry evidenced the right of all to be seen as whole and worthy and free – as God’s children, spiritual and pure. He knew that no government or individual could take away our God-given ability to rise above oppression (including sickness and immorality) and experience good, just as God made us to.
Jesus preached that humility and innocence prevail over pride and prejudice, and that the truth of our God-given right to freedom sets us free from whatever is opposite to God, divine Love. At the height of Jesus’ work, with growing opposition from those in power, his students asked him, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” His reply set forth a great fact that stood in juxtaposition to world belief: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:1, 3-5, New International Version).
Now, this doesn’t always appear to be the case. One outcome of the public stand Jesus took throughout his ministry for the inherent goodness and purity of everyone was that he was unjustly convicted and crucified. But a key lesson here, that we celebrate at Easter in particular, is that Jesus’ humility, strength, and conviction were not in vain. In the end, he proved all that he preached, and rose above the hateful opposition and the attempts to thwart his God-given mission. Through his resurrection, Jesus proved to humanity – for all time – the indestructible nature of everyone’s true being as God’s spiritual and beloved offspring.
Knowing ourselves and each other this way brings freedom from evil, such as hatred, and heals illness. Everyone is capable of reaching the full potential of freedom and fulfillment that God intends for each of us.
Mary Baker Eddy, a follower of Jesus and the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, pointed out in her book “The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany” that pride and ambition often lead one astray, while innocence and righteousness bring us back to “the kingdom of heaven.” That is, these childlike qualities go hand in hand with experiencing more of our God-given harmony and health. “The pride of place or power is the prince of this world that hath nothing in Christ. Our great Master said: ‘Except ye ... become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,’ – the reign of righteousness, the glory of good, healing the sick and saving the sinner” (p. 4).
Having three children who are now young adults, I feel a tender solicitude for the courage and commitment of these young people in Myanmar. Though our family’s daily life is much less dangerous than what others in the world may be experiencing, my children have shown me the value of an innocent, pure desire for good and justice. And we don’t need to be children to cultivate that childlike, innocent goodness. When we let go of pride and entrenched positions, we grow spiritually and we make progress.
May we all embrace the God-given innocence and purity that dwell in each of us and that prevail over injustice and other ills, inevitably leading us to progress.