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Forgiving is for giving

From the May 2021 issue of The Christian Science Journal


God’s love is meteoric,
        his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
        his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
        nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
        slips through the cracks.

How exquisite your love, O God!
        How eager we are to run under
                        your wings.

This moving praise of God’s all-embracing love, a paraphrase of Psalms 36, verses 5–7, from Eugene Peterson’s The Message, captures the essence of spirituality: God is Love. The kingdom of heaven, as Christ Jesus taught it, has one key feature—love. There is only universal, omnipresent, continuous, supreme Love. And nothing proves that Love is universal and absolute as forgiveness does, because forgiveness is the direct effect of Love, God. It is Love in action.

Both love and forgiveness are central to Christianity. Love is the basic thread running through the life of Christ Jesus. He brought to people comfort, healing, honor, dignity, and a new life-perspective through spiritual love. 

Right from the start he encountered massive resistance in the forms of indifference, doubt, fundamentalism, scholastic disputation, and hierarchical structures that would eventually lead to his crucifixion. Jesus knew what it means to be hated and ridiculed, yet he continued to love and forgive. And he counseled his followers, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too” (Mark 11:24, 25, New Living Translation).

Christ Jesus is the Way-shower for mankind, because he alone showed on the cross what Love is and what Love is capable of. In awe we stand before this supreme example of forgiveness, sacrifice, and love. What Jesus did on the cross led to his resurrection from the tomb, changed the world, and set the standard of Christly living and love for all time to come. 

Cultivating a forgiving attitude is healing and empowering like nothing else, for healing flows from the Christianity that necessarily includes forgiveness. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, states: “Christianity is the basis of true healing. Whatever holds human thought in line with unselfed love, receives directly the divine power” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 192).

Admittedly, forgiving someone can involve a heart-rending struggle, sometimes of gigantic proportions. Some events or actions pose hard questions. As we strive to forgive, though, we are growing spiritually, and that makes the goal of being forgiving worthy of our best efforts. It is helpful to recognize our own need for forgiveness, based on our mistakes. From a Christian point of view, forgiveness is important for our salvation. 

Again, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “. . . whatever we meet that is hard in the Christian warfare we must count as nothing, and must think instead, of our poverty and helplessness without this understanding, and count ourselves always as debtors to Christ, Truth” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 281). 

But forgiveness is much more than a human need, a Christian duty, or a moral obligation. It is linked directly to divine Love. It demonstrates that God is Love. In the practice of forgiveness, God’s view of His creation asserts itself. 

God sees each individual as His spiritual likeness—unblemished, blameless, innocent of sin. So forgiveness is not so much about dealing with the actions of others or of ourselves. It is about seeing who we all truly are—God’s loved, spiritual ideas unified as a supremely good and elegant whole—in the one Mind, God. Forgiveness means seeing right through the actions of others and honoring who they are as creations of God.

Christ Jesus showed us what it means to be God’s child, to be the reflection of the one infinite Mind. In his Sermon on the Mount he said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48), revealing our true heritage and purpose. And his eternal example of the continuous nature of Love is our forever inspiration.

The Love that is God knows no beginning or end. It is the center and circumference of all creation (see Science and Health, pp. 203–204). God, pure Love, is the only cause, the only creator. He is the one Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, and Life of all. Infinite, eternal Love is the supreme lawmaker. And love is not about convincing a person but about demonstrating the one divine Principle. A universal Principle that constitutes and governs its own universe with absolute power and so is never sidelined or irrelevant. “God is not mocked” (Galatians 6:7).

Love has a focused attention to detail and an unceasing interest in every idea of its vast universe. As the Bible says, “His eye seeth every precious thing” (Job 28:10). And this divine Principle permits no deviation from Love—no opposition, limitation, corrosion, or decline—either in itself or in its creation. 

By reason of its all-presence and all-power, Love precludes the notion of many minds and mortal egos. Therefore, whatever is unlike Love is untrue, unreal, nothing more than a delusion of the human mind. Love heals by liberating the human mind from ignorantly believing in many minds. Everyone in the kingdom of heaven, the here-and-now spiritual reality, is loved and loving because God is the essence of each one of us. The whole creation, then, can feel only what Love feels. And our reason for being is to reflect God’s love to everyone.

These ideas offer a practical road to the healing of strained relationships or broken friendships. They can bring harmony to the workplace, school, and home, and they can show a powerful way of dealing with indifference, criticism, misunderstanding, envy, or hate.

In my professional capacity, I was once asked for advice in the form of an expert opinion regarding a certain proposal. I wrote a detailed report analyzing the proposal’s strengths and weaknesses and advanced it to the next level of action with my full recommendation. A few days later I was totally taken off guard by an email full of disappointment and anger directed toward me. A swirl of emotions bubbled in me, but I turned toward the cool, calming presence of divine Love. This enabled me to refuse to attach the angry reaction to this individual. 

My husband encouraged me to listen to God speaking to all of us. I did so and was able to write a short, loving reply, offering to talk in person. I could not have been more surprised when I received an even worse email response, using terms such as “invidious” and “spiteful.” 

God sees each individual as His spiritual likeness—unblemished, blameless, innocent.

Now here was a challenge. I pushed aside with all spiritual commitment the anger, resentment, and disbelief that tried to overwhelm me. I took ample time to become really quiet and pray, and I vehemently refused to search for a psychological cause for such an outburst. 

I prayed to see that there is divine Love before there is love for one another. Peacemaking is God’s job and Love’s prerogative, not mine. Forgiving means to live in Love and stay there, whatever the situation would show forth.

This realization took the responsibility off my shoulders. I saw that even the best human words didn’t have the power of Love itself. This power is felt more than heard. I also realized that this conflict could be de-escalated by one side. I had witnessed this type of conflict in the academic world often. These clashes had sometimes turned into friction and even division spanning years, and by refusing in this moment to attach the conflict to any individual or setting or circumstance, it would be ended before it started. Conflict is a destructive imposition, not a normal part of relationships among God’s children.

With this insight I removed both our emails from the server, like wiping clean a blackboard. Continuing to pray, I bowed before the Christ, the one and only peacemaker. I took an active stand for the presence of the Christ with me, with this individual, with everyone. 

Upon my return home I found a new email, humble and sweet. The individual apologized and asked for forgiveness. He said he didn’t know what had pushed him into the misunderstanding, but that it was my loving, forgiving attitude, seeing him as a friend the whole way through, that brought him out of it. 

Honoring God by expressing His love in the face of injustice is especially important. It ultimately enables us to yield to the divine good that completely outshines hate, envy, and indifference. One act of Christly forgiveness after another eliminates evil on the human scene and ensures the end of evil in time to come. Christ is the way—the only way forward. On these ideas world peace is being built. However small or insignificant our own experiences may seem to be on the bigger scale, they are nonetheless contributing concretely and inevitably to world peace.

In Miscellaneous Writings, a letter from one who adopted Christian Science is republished, and it includes the following: “To one who can accept the truth that all causation is in Mind, and who therefore begins to look away from matter and into Mind, or Spirit, for all that is real and eternal, and for all that produces anything that is lasting, the doubts and petty annoyances of life become dissolved in the light of a better understanding, which has been refined in the crucible of charity and love; and they fade away into the nothingness from whence they came, never having had any existence in fact, being only the inventions of erring human belief” (pp. 469–470).

When Christ Jesus teaches us to “love one another,” this is one more way of showing us that we are the perfect, lovable, and loving expression of God that Love made us to be—as opposed to a lesser man or woman who needs another chance. 

Because Love is God and truly All-in-all, forgiving is loving and therefore made “for giving.” It is meant to be a gift, given away with joy, with no strings attached. It is not a contract or negotiation. It is Love, God, shining brightly on all of Her creation, all the time. We can give this gift, because we have been given so much in the first place. Forgiving is giving in its purest form. Some would simply call it love.

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