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Instant forgiveness

February 1, 1982

One of the most vital ingredients for Christian living is the ability to forgive quickly - before antagonism widens into a war between friends or enemies. But what a challenge this can be!

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Through his supreme example, Christ Jesus has shown us the necessity of forgiving and also how to forgive. When nailed to a cross of hate, he said, ''Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do''! 1

It's unlikely that we'll be literally crucified for our religious beliefs, but it's quite possible that our motives or actions will be misunderstood at times. How we handle such situations will depend upon the measure of our Christliness. And our behavior can serve as an example to others who may be unaware of or indifferent to the Master's Sermon on the Mount, which commands us to forgive our enemies.

Sometimes, larger hurts are easier to forgive than smaller ones. Does a car cutting in front of us in traffic bring a tinge of egotism to the surface? Do we bristle with, ''Of all the nerve!'' Though we may not consider getting even, Christian living requires us to forgive the offender - and the forgiving needn't take time.

Have we had days that started off well but ended in a shambles? Perhaps we let someone's rudeness or carelessness weigh us down with such heaviness that we lost our joy. We can regain our peace and forgive when we understand the law of Love, which permeates Jesus' teachings. What's the basis of this law? It's the eternal fact that God is infinite and, being infinite, He's really the only Mind there is.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ''When we realize that there is one Mind, the divine law of loving our neighbor as ourselves is unfolded; whereas a belief in many ruling minds hinders man's normal drift towards the one Mind, one God, and leads human thought into opposite channels where selfishness reigns.'' 2

Could it be that self-centered thinking is what deters us from instant forgiveness? If we let our lives become self-centered rather than God-centered, we may find that it requires more cross-bearing to forgive someone for an offense than to be offended. But this reluctance to love our neighbor well enough to forgive him can be overcome through prayer.

Merely shutting out the incident is not forgiveness, nor is it prayer. It's more an attempt to escape the humility necessary for repentance and to avoid the regenerative activity of the Christ.

Prayer, on the other hand, is an acknowledgment of God's infinite care for His creation, a recognition that He has given all good to each of us. Through prayer we can ask God to give us a forgiving heart, knowing that our prayer will be answered. ''If ye then,'' Jesus said, ''being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?''n3

It is the Holy Spirit that bathes the repentant human consciousness with the balm of Love. This Christly presence inspires us to forgive, destroys the mortal frailty of self-centeredness, and restores the spiritual sense that enables us to love our neighbor spontaneously. In this pure, Christlike state of thought we have no inclination to offend or be offended. Our forgiveness is instant.

n1 Luke 23:34.

n2 Science and Health, p. 205.

n3 Luke 11:13. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how ofr shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jusus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21, 22