The healing power of forgiveness

A Christian Science perspective: A healing response to news reports of shootings by police.

When we hear of a shooting or other violent crime, our hearts go out to the victims. We naturally want to express compassion toward those who have suffered injury or loss.

And while a fair trial can play a role in ameliorating one’s hurt, it may not bring the full healing that's needed. We might feel justified in our anger and hatred toward those who have caused deliberate harm. Retaliation could look like a valid way of reclaiming power from the wrongdoers. But the Bible points to the need to heal motives such as anger, hatred, and revenge.

One of the central themes of the Scriptures is that evil cannot be overcome by more evil. It can be overcome only by good.

Christ Jesus, whose freedom from evil motives was unparalleled, taught us that whatever the provocation, our response must always be to love: “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:43-45, New Living Translation).

It may be difficult to understand both how to forgive and how forgiveness can heal the grieving in the wake of fatal violence. Yet Jesus made it clear that when we forgive, we ally ourselves with infinite good, God, by obeying the divine law of love to all. In this way, forgiveness is an effective, healing response because there’s freedom in finding the capacity to love others. And we can begin to forgive when we start from the biblical basis that we are all created good (see Genesis 1:26, 27, 31).

Starting from this basis does not mean we excuse crimes, but that we look beyond what the material senses tell us of another’s identity, to discern the man and woman of God’s creating – the perfect, spiritual expression of God. This spiritual identity embodies every good quality that belongs to God, who is divine Love (see I John 4:8). And if we are made by Love itself, how could we truly express anything that goes against a loving nature – and how could God, as Love, be capable of forgetting to love each of us as His children? Held securely within Love’s tender embrace, we are untouched by hatred, because there can be no evil in infinite Love.

The founder of this publication, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, explains the importance of holding fast to good and of knowing ourselves as Love’s creation in this way: “At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil. Clad in the panoply of Love, human hatred cannot reach you” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 571).

As we increasingly understand that each of us is wrapped in Love, forgiveness becomes a real possibility. And forgiveness that comes from an understanding of God’s allness has the power to heal and comfort profoundly, uplifting the atmosphere of human thought with God’s healing love.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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