To forgive when we've been maligned is not always easy. Yet forgiveness is a key ingredient for anyone trying to live a life that blesses others. Few (if any) of us are mistake-free. Sometimes people are conscious of the mistakes they make or the ill will they bring about. Sometimes they are not. Regardless, people need to be forgiven. Without forgiveness for ourselves and others it is difficult to help resolve human problems. And there are plenty of problems to be resolved - just look through this newspaper on any given day!
As good a notion as forgiveness is on any occasion, true forgiveness is not just a matter of having the ability to smooth things over in a pleasing way when others abuse us. The forgiveness that heals and transforms a difficult relationship problem, for example, is not a social or psychological device. True forgiveness has deeper roots than that. Its basis is enlightened Christianity.
The Old Testament often portrays a God of retribution, and this concept of God was manifest in the laws of those times, where it was considered only just to require payment of ''an eye for an eye.'' But in the New Testament we are given, through the teachings and example of Christ Jesus, a higher understanding of God. We come to understand Him as good alone, as pure Love and Truth. This God, divine Love, the only real lawmaker, was the power directly behind Jesus' unparalleled healing works and his ability to forgive his enemies.
Because Jesus' consciousness was filled with the powerful, intelligent, invariable love that emanates from God, he was able to forgive others - even when they nailed him to a cross. ''Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,'' n1 he prayed. Jesus didn't forgive simply because he felt it was a nice thing to do or because it might make him feel better. The Master could forgive because he clearly understood that the hatred, ignorance, and jealousy coming his way were not part of God's creation, not part of Love and its manifestation, and were therefore powerless. Looking over Jesus' whole career, including the crucifixion and resurrection, we see that his thought was always to express the truth of God's living love. This love permeated everything he said and did.
n1 Luke 23:34.
What an example! Jesus wasn't busy arguing with members of the crowd about how unjust they were being. He was busy reflecting the inexhaustible love of God.
The knowledge, even to a small degree, of the eternal truth of God's love for us, and for all, is enlightened Christianity. Often we hold grudges because we feel others have taken something from us - our welfare, our friends, our happiness. But these experiences can cause us to turn more toward divine Love, our real Father-Mother. And when we turn wholeheartedly to God, He opens new avenues for us, always giving us a fuller and richer sense of life, of His boundless goodness. We see that His provision is a matter of divine law; that as His offspring, we're inseparable from His care. Then, forgiveness comes naturally, unbegrudgingly. We want to forgive because it gives us a sense of expressing the reality of God, Truth and Love, in a situation where God seems to be absent.
This expression fulfills an aspect of the Lord's Prayer: ''Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.'' n2 Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, interprets this passage, ''And Love is reflected in love.'' n3
n2 Matthew 6:12.
n3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 17.
The desire to express God's love through forgiveness heals. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. I John 4:7