The necessity to forgive
A Christian Science perspective: Praying to overcome revenge.
Diamond Reynolds shouted, “All lives matter, not just black lives.” Her fiancé, Philando Castile, had been shot and killed the day before by a white policeman while attempting to comply with the officer’s instructions to present his driver’s license and registration. Ms. Reynolds streamed an online video of the tragic event. But this was not out of revenge – it was for justice. Still, white policemen were targeted following the Castile shooting, resulting in the deaths of four white police officers and one Mexican-American policeman. We cry for them all.
I have come to understand that injustice and evil are destroyed by good, not by more evil. No evil act can have a power for good. And we can experience healing and more good only by following what is right.
Being principled – fair and just – and being loving – or merciful and compassionate – are not mutually exclusive. When we think of being principled and loving as effects of a higher Mind, or God, Principle and Love are seen to be synonyms. They both represent what is good, not evil. Speaking of God, the Bible tells us, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalms 85:10). Psalm 89 also offers: “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face” (verse 14).
If we are betrayed by a spouse, gossiped about by a trusted friend, or abused by one in authority over us, we may struggle with the harm done and the emotional hurt of the injustice. But if this pain is not handled – completely destroyed – it could turn us to hate. No one should allow this feeling to dwell within his or her heart or mind. Hatred often ends up being even more destructive than the initial affront. As we learn that God, good, is omnipotent, we see that evil must be, by simple logic, impotent and without justification. This spiritual fact was proved in the life and teachings of Jesus; and his followers strive to emulate the master Christian.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgave those who treated him so cruelly and put him to death. His example is for us all; and following his example releases us from vengeful feelings and further deterioration of our humanity.
Mary Baker Eddy, a devout follower of Christ Jesus’ teachings and the discoverer of Christian Science, writes: “While we adore Jesus, and the heart overflows with gratitude for what he did for mortals, – treading alone his loving pathway up to the throne of glory, in speechless agony exploring the way for us, – yet Jesus spares us not one individual experience, if we follow his commands faithfully; and all have the cup of sorrowful effort to drink in proportion to their demonstration of his love, till all are redeemed through divine Love” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 26).
Finding in our hearts to forgive may be one of the hardest things we do, but it is the most powerful, because forgiveness puts us on the path to righteousness and healing. In my own experience, I prayed to God, asking Him to help me forgive an injustice I had encountered. Through prayer, I had realized an important fact of Christianity – God is in control, and we can trust God to “deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13). It dawned on me that the power to love is the effect of God’s omnipotent love reflected in me, not a personal ability. This is because “God is love” (I John 4:8) and I am made in His “image, after [God’s] likeness” (Genesis 1:26). I understood that divine Love is all powerful and infinite – it is never too hard for God to love. God’s love is boundless, and He expresses it in each of us, who are His children (see Romans 8:16). Being loving, good, and righteous – knowing and doing what is right – then, is inherent in us all.
Understanding this brought me peace, and I was able to forgive the transgressor. This experience showed me that God, divine Love, is what heals and saves us from wanting to commit vengeful acts. By following the Christ in the way of salvation as Jesus taught, we learn to forgive and find freedom from hatred.