Forgiving Our Debtors
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
I was in a meeting, to review the design for a software program one of my co-workers was developing. Some of us had fundamental problems with the design. Our discussion was lively, sometimes heated, and the meeting was becoming chaotic.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
At a point of exasperation, I remembered a story I had read that week. It goes like this: A king summons his servant who owes him a lot of money and asks the servant to pay up or else be punished. The servant can't pay and begs for patience, promising to pay it all. The king has compassion and actually absolves him of the debt altogether.
Then the servant who has just been let off the hook goes to someone who owes him a much lesser amount and demands that he pay. The man says he can't and begs for patience. He promises to pay it all. But the unmerciful creditor throws his debtor into prison.
The king finds out about this. And he calls the unmerciful man to him and asks him, "Why didn't you have compassion on that man, just as I did with you?" And the king reinstates his debt.
This is a parable that was told by Jesus Christ (see Matt. 18:23-35). I found it to be a good illustration of a line from a prayer that he also gave: "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt 6:12). In a spiritual interpretation of this prayer, Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor, wrote, "And Love [God] is reflected in love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Pg. 17).
What did this mean to me? I reasoned that the king could be thought of as God, the servant as myself, and the fellow servant as my co-worker. God loves all His children infinitely, unconditionally, constantly. I believe that. I count on it. (I'll admit I even take it for granted sometimes.) I also know I deserve God's love because the Bible teaches me that my true self is God's good and perfect child, made in His good image.
Well, in turn, I must know and acknowledge that my fellow men and women are also fundamentally, inherently good even when their behavior says otherwise. In their true selfhood they are divine Love's perfect expression. For that reason, all men and women deserve my compassion, love, and forgiveness, as much as I do theirs. As I give up being angry with others, and replace anger with genuine patience, love, and forbearance, I am forgiving my debtors. I am living in accord with the law of God. In this, God forgives my debt.
As I sat in the meeting, pondering what I'd learned from this Bible story, I knew the only way I could be debt-free to God was to let go of my exasperation with this co-worker. In order to put off my annoyance, I had to see that as God's expression he could not really be closed-minded or foolish; but that in his true identity he was the full expression of God, the infinite Mind that is discerning and wise.
Forgiving others' debts doesn't mean letting them take advantage of you, and I didn't need to just keep my thoughts to myself or compromise my principles. A person needs to stand for what he or she believes is right. But this can - must - be done with the authority of divine Love. Standing for what's right is the most loving thing you can do, and it blesses everyone involved. I realized I needed to express my ideas to my co-worker from the basis that the one God - who is Principle and Love and Mind - is the only power of the universe. And so I did.
The result? Agitation in my thinking was replaced with feelings of goodwill and honest affection for this individual, and for all the participants in the meeting. The lively discussion continued, but there was no more antagonism, no offense taken. We negotiated a new design, which everyone agreed was much better than the original, even though it meant more work for several of us. Each person contributed something of value to the new design. The original designer was not only agreeable, but eager to comply with what he perceived to be a more mutually beneficial approach.
The Bible also says, "Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law" (Rom. 13:8). This is God's law. It blesses. It makes us all rich.