Why Forgive?

MANY of us have repeatedly heard the familiar saying, ``Forgive and forget.'' For me, this saying has often fallen flat. I've wondered, ``How will the damage be fixed by forgetting all about it?'' For Christians, there are other familiar sayings having to do with forgiveness -- statements made by the Master, Christ Jesus. When his disciple Peter asked, ``Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?'' Jesus replied, ``I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.''1 And on the cross, Jesus prayed for his persecutors, ``Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.''2 But perhaps the saying most familiar to us is in the Lord's Prayer: ``Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.''3

This hints at why we must forgive; it fills the void left by the often unsatisfying clich'e ``Forgive and forget.'' As we forgive our debtors, our heavenly Father forgives us. In proportion as we forgive, does God forgive us. The feeling that we need divine forgiveness may be more or less acute at different times, but I imagine few of us ever feel we've gone beyond needing forgiveness!

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, gives the spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer. Following the line ``And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors'' the interpretation reads, ``And Love is reflected in love....''4 This short statement expands and elevates the meaning of forgiveness and shows the Christian what his true duty is when it comes to forgiving.

The capitalized Love at the beginning of the sentence means divine Love, God. This divine Love is the Father that Jesus was addressing in his prayers. The love referred to at the end of the sentence is the love man expresses. The spiritual meaning of the Master's words points to the fact that in order to forgive one must love, and in order to love one must forgive. It is vital to forgive, or we are not doing the one thing that Christ Jesus stressed as most important of all -- we are not loving.

While Jesus' words show why we must forgive, the spiritual sense of them shows how we can forgive and love. The relationship between love and Love reveals the fact of man's oneness with the Father as His very image and likeness. Man reflects God; love reflects Love. ``God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him,''5 we read in the Bible. ``Man is idea, the image, of Love...,''6 states Science and Health.

Christ Jesus proved this many times. In one case, he said to an invalid, ``Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.'' Jesus explained his words to the crowd by saying, ``Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.''7 The man was fully healed. Think of the healing power of true forgiveness!

The ultimate goal of forgiveness, then, is not only to express love but also to heal. Our sins and our guilt over our sins weigh us down with mental and physical burdens. Christly love -- which forgives sins by recognizing that man is truly the image of God, sinless, perfect, whole, lovable -- lifts these burdens and heals.

So the next time you hear ``Forgive and forget,'' think of the Master's words, of their spiritual significance, and of your opportunity and ability to forgive and to heal.

1Matthew 18:21, 22. 2Luke 23:34. 3Matthew 6:12. 4Science and Health, p. 17. 5I John 4:16. 6Science and Health, p. 475. 7Matthew 9:2, 5, 6.

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