I opened the Bible and read the account of Jesus' crucifixion. Something in the way he asked for forgiveness stopped me in my tracks. I don't know why I was so moved this time. I was brought up with the Bible, and I must have read this chapter hundreds of times. But this time it was different.
These were the words of Jesus on the cross that moved me: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). All this while soldiers were casting lots on few remaining worldly goods and jeering and sneering at him.
Flooding through my mind just as unexpectedly came rushing memories I had long forgotten. A family member had abused my loyalty and love in a most hurtful way. I had tried not to think about the whole issue and had moved on with my life, and I didn't think about it anymore. But suddenly I felt impelled to stop and pause, to heal a part of my life I would rather have forgotten.
It was a good place to stand - the foot of the cross - the site of the biggest lesson on love that humanity ever came to know.
The resurrection of Jesus begins with prayers of forgiveness. The prayers of Jesus on the cross captured the world by loving and forgiving. Jesus said many wonderful things, but rarely words so poignant and beautiful. The purity of that love suddenly washed me clean.
It was this spirit of love and forgiveness that his disciples embraced and followed. When one of his followers, Stephen, was being stoned to death, he, too, "cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" (Acts 7:60). I felt that at this moment every memory of the past resentment had come to me to be washed clean with the spirit of love and forgiveness. This was being demanded of me, and I could allow divine Love to permeate my being and fill my whole consciousness.
Tears of gratitude for this sudden release poured and poured. I felt I had been washed with that unconditional love Jesus expressed. I could no longer tell my relative I had released him because he was no longer with me. But I did the next best thing. I thanked God for having given me this opportunity to feel His love for me and my relative.
I was grateful for all the spiritual, holy qualities that my relative had expressed. Suddenly now that the hurt had been healed, I could see each one of those qualities so clearly. The resentment had clouded my vision of those qualities and the love he had shown to me many times.
In light of Jesus' act of love, there cannot be a place where an unforgiving spirit can threaten hearts to bitterness. Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor and Stoic philosopher, told himself every morning, "Today you will meet all kinds of unpleasant people; they will hurt you, and injure you, and insult you; but you cannot live like that; you know better, for you are a man in whom the Spirit of God dwells."
Jesus' way of loving all humanity is a tried way. The great teacher said to his disciples when they asked how many times must they forgive, "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" (Matt 18:22). In other words, endlessly. It echoes the prayer he taught his disciples: "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt. 6:12).
Nowhere has the superiority of love been so clearly demonstrated than at the resurrection. At no time in human history has the line between hate and love been so clearly defined. Jesus' early followers called their religion "the Good News," because they knew and believed that this resurrection of Jesus was the source of powerful and transfigured lives. Today it remains the greatest thing that ever happened on earth, the triumph of good over evil, love over hatred, faithfulness over betrayal, freedom over oppression, and truth and justice over lies.
Mary Baker Eddy's book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" has been my precious guide to the Bible. The Bible made little sense to me as a Christian until I studied her book. This passage in her book made me study the account of Jesus' resurrection: "It is the living Christ, the practical Truth, which makes Jesus 'the resurrection and the life' to all who follow him in deed" (pg. 31). It made me suddenly see the whole implication of unconditional love.
For me the path to forgiveness started at the cross, where Jesus set an example for his followers and disciples of the way to walk. It's the story of unconditional forgiveness that improves the life of any follower of Truth. The path to forgiveness is a spiritual journey. The act of forgiveness and loving is a decision, a choice, that we each can make. It becomes a lifestyle.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another.
Colossians 3:12, 13