Sharp criticism, harsh indifference, silent hatred, false rumors, or abusive behavior might cross the path of all of us at some point, but they cannot reach or hurt a heart filled with and sustained by God’s love. Whether there’s an issue at work, at home, with a neighbor, in church, or in any other arena, there is the perfect solution. Lines from a poem by Mary Baker Eddy explain it best: “Wait, and love more for every hate, and fear / No ill,—since God is good, and loss is gain” (Poems, p. 4).
It isn’t always easy to love in the face of hate. But a heart filled with Christly love and humbled by divine Love’s presence understands that the most intelligent, honest, and loving approach is to mend the breach in the demonstration of lasting harmony. And this involves forgiveness.
Forgiveness can be a sticky thing. On the one hand, we may sincerely want to sense the spirit of Christ and express love for another who has attempted to cause harm or is guilty of a moral violation. On the other hand, there may be a strong desire for justice to prevail that will rebuke or punish the wrongdoing and bring redemption.
These two points of view do not have to be in conflict with each other.
According to the divine Science of Christ, God, the governing Principle of the universe, is the source of all true justice. God’s law of divine order ensures that justice is done; and divine mercy and reformation go hand in hand. Mrs. Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Justice requires reformation of the sinner. Mercy cancels the debt only when justice approves” (p. 22).
Christ and Christian Science are in the saving and comforting business, and will continue to inspire and support an individual’s ability to be reformed and finally feel God’s mercy.
Because justice is an outcome of eternal divine Principle, or ever-active Truth and Love, in wanting to forgive another we can have confidence that whatever needs to be corrected will be corrected—first, of course, in our own thought. There may be times when we feel an urgency to see immediate justice done, but human timetables often differ from the outcome of the infinitely wise operation of divine Principle in human consciousness. It’s appropriate, of course, that parents correct their children in a timely and caring manner, and that those responsible for enforcing the law fulfill their duties promptly and equitably. But the deeper issue of justice and reformation is always under the jurisdiction of God, the governing Principle of all.
God, Spirit, being infinitely good and pure, forever free of sinful contamination, is always maintaining purity and goodness in His spiritual image, man, our genuine and only selfhood. This truth impels forgiveness as we gain a higher sense of man’s character and a recognition that thoughts and actions unlike the divine nature must inevitably be eliminated.
None of us, in the spiritual truth of what we are, can be tempted into acts contrary to our actual nature and opposed to what God knows of us as His spiritual reflection. Striving to prove Principle’s governing power, prayerfully expecting God-governed thoughts and actions in ourselves or another, we are protected from harmful impulses; and this blesses others as well. However, there may be occasions where the improper action of another requires one to draw the individual’s—or an authority’s—attention to it. This may bring consequences to the individual as an inevitable result of justice in action, both human and divine. But the act of drawing attention to wrong behavior can be done without heated accusations and in a spirit of reconciliation when our motive is to punish the bad behavior in order to free the person from it.
Sometimes sensing God’s tender love embracing another can be enough to cause the error in his or her thought and behavior to be self-seen, moving the individual toward immediate change. There may also be times when a great moral upheaval occurs, and someone at first feels incapable or undeserving of forgiveness. However, Christ and Christian Science are in the saving and comforting business, and will continue to inspire and support an individual’s ability to be reformed and finally feel God’s mercy.
One can prayerfully consider the practical intelligence and balance of justice and mercy found in the Bible, even in the moral law expressed in the Ten Commandments. These Commandments set a firm tone of right conduct but also speak of God’s “mercy unto … them that love [God], and keep [God’s] commandments” (Exodus 20:6). And the Beatitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount tell us that the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, are blessed. That’s true even in the face of abusive language, persistent harassment, untrue comments, and so forth. On the other hand, one who is doing wrong can immediately begin to turn from such behavior, express more of the Godlike qualities included in the Beatitudes—qualities that inherently belong to him or her as God’s idea—and be blessed. Both the Commandments and the Beatitudes can be inspiring resources when seeking or finding forgiveness.
Resuscitation from one’s sorrow over a wrong one has done may at times be drawn out as the lessons needing to be learned are digested. Weighing the shameful consequences of one’s words or actions may act as a preventive in the future. Space allowed for somber reflection can further expose latent error in thought, requiring one’s denouncement of it, which must precede finding God’s mercy. Christ, Truth, continues to impel humanity to discover everyone’s God-bestowed innocence, and find our natural freedom from sin and enslavement to the material senses.
Forgiveness based on God’s love for man as divinely created is an open-hearted embrace of all that is innocent and good in ourselves or another. God is not only the Giver of all good, but also the forgiver of all sin through its destruction—proving evil to be unreal. We have the God-derived authority and ceaseless capacity to reflect God’s love—His mercy and justice—in the forgiveness that sees evil as unreal.
“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever” (Psalms 136:1).