Forgiveness frees

THERE has been more loss of innocent lives in Ireland. But there may be a difference this time in connection with a recent incident. Consider a bereaved father's brave comment after his daughter, a student nurse, was killed: ``Marie's last words were of life. It would be no way for me to remember her by having words of hatred in my mouth.''1 The killing of this young student and ten others in a terrorist incident along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland occurred against the global backdrop of superpowers edging toward a growing emphasis on life rather than nuclear destruction. This incident and this trend may point to a difference for mankind. There seems a willingness now to turn thought away from the usual patterns of retribution or hateful distrust.

Turning the other cheek is an important Christian precept.2 Sometimes, however, there is more personal will than blessing in efforts to follow through; more tactic than actual transformation of character in a decision to forestall confrontation or grief.

When we've been pushed to the limit of our emotions and the only choice seems to be breakdown or stolidity, sometimes we can summon the toughness that dams up the tears and anger. We make it through the crisis. We show we're tough. But the anguish lies within, untouched by healing, lingering for another day, another crisis.

And yet it is the assertion of Christianity -- in the face of all such challenges -- that forgiveness is the starting point of much personal reformation and, as a result, of the reformation of society itself. The Lord's Prayer turns individuals to God for forgiveness of debts. Peter once asked Christ Jesus how to deal with someone who sins against him. Should I forgive him seven times? the disciple inquired. Jesus answered, ``I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.''3

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes of Jesus' crucifixion: ``The last act of thetragedy on Calvary rent the veil of matter, and unveiled Love's great legacy to mortals: Love forgiving its enemies. This grand act crowned and still crowns Christianity: it manumits mortals; it translates love; it gives to suffering, inspiration;to patience, experience; to experience,hope; to hope, faith; to faith, understanding; and to understanding, Lovetriumphant!''4

In the midst of tragedy, when no human rescue is apparently at hand, it isthe wholehearted turning toward God, divine Love, divine good, that begins to transform circumstances. It is the daily discipline of listening to spiritual intuitions from God instead of reacting angrily that begins to free thought from the forebodings of mortality and opens it to the blessings of spirituality, of man's God-given birthright.

Vengeful thinking would shut the door on healing, but forgiveness opens the way to seeing something of God's perfect spiritual reality expressed in our experience. Tragedy may seem to be a normal part of human existence. But it doesn't reflect the will of God or the true selfhood of man, the creator's very image, His spiritual likeness. That's why it can be challenged and overcome. But we need to be willing to take the first steps -- to open our thought to a higher view of man that impels forgiveness, a view that is willing to acknowledge that the man of God's creating is neither aggressor nor victim. And we need to admit that God's infinite love is equal to any circumstance.

Whether the event is in the privacy of one life or in the public glare of an entire world, the message that is beginning to dawn in many hearts these days is that of God's love -- not fate's mysterious ways -- as the overriding power available to all who will consistently, humbly obey the ``seventy times seven'' mandate.

1The New York Times, December 7, 1987. 2See Matthew 5:39. 3Matthew 18:22. 4Miscellaneous Writings, p. 124.

You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: Condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Luke 6:37

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