EVERY sincere Christian knows the importance of forgiving others. He or she may forget, though, that it is just as necessary to experience forgiveness for oneself. If we are being too hard on ourselves, it might be because we are expecting human perfection. While Christ Jesus did say, ``Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,''1 the final triumph over all sin doesn't come overnight. In First John we read, ``If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.''2
It should be clear that the way of Christian discipleship requires self-examination, repentance, reformation, and regeneration. There are no shortcuts. Humble self-examination will uncover hidden evil thoughts, and some of these may shock us. Heartfelt repentance may sometimes involve shedding tears, but these steps are requisite for our humanity to be purified.
At the same time, we should remember that Jesus made loving ourselves the point of reference for loving our neighbor. The second great commandment applies to the way we treat ourselves as well as others.3
We can do no less than forgive ourselves when we realize that we have a merciful, loving Father-Mother God, who is divine Love. We always have divine forgiveness at hand, and this becomes apparent as we repent and reform.
We must treat our humanity with mercy and compassion. Jesus said, ``Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.''4
Human experience is a mix of sorrow and joy, defeat and victory. Sometimes we dwell too much on the former and end up feeling guilty and condemning ourselves. Then we should take stock and rejoice over the good we have accomplished.
But there is more than human virtue to appreciate in ourselves. There is the spiritual perfection that God expresses in man. When the Bible defines man as made in God's image, it is referring to man's perfect, spiritual being -- the likeness of divine Spirit -- not to human character. Nothing less than a spiritual man and universe can image forth the perfection of God.
Our putting off sin isn't, then, a matter of striving for perfection from a standpoint of imperfection but of seeing more and more of our true, sinless, spiritual selfhood and yielding to that reality -- letting it become more apparent in our thoughts and actions. In this way the healing power of Christ, Truth, transforms human life from sickness to health and from sin to holiness. Jesus was the highest human example of the Christ-idea, of true manhood. We have written record of his struggles. This record includes his wrestling with temptation at the beginning of his ministry and, near the end of it, his agonizing to subordinate human will to the divine in the garden of Gethsemane. Through his prayers and deep spiritual understanding he was victorious over all temptation and triumphed in the resurrection and ascension. With the ascension Jesus rose completely above a material sense of life and fully demonstrated man's God-given perfection.
We have a long way to go before we do the same. In the meantime we should gently and consistently conform more to the Christ ideal. Along the way, we can value human goodness as an indication of man's spiritual perfection.
The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, says, ``The more I understand true humanhood, the more I see it to be sinless, -- as ignorant of sin as is the perfect Maker.''5 Our hearts will increasingly sing as the true humanhood Mrs. Eddy speaks of becomes more apparent to us. A compassionate, forgiving attitude helps forward that realization.
1Matthew 5:48. 2I John 1:8. 3See Matthew 22:39. 4Luke 6:36. 5Unity of Good, p. 49.