Forgiving the Unforgivable
WHEN we read of cruelties committed against children, political prisoners, and others, we can't help wondering whether some crimes are simply beyond forgiveness. Perhaps relatively few of us have committed such crimes or suffered from them. But many of us have been wronged in cruel ways. And perhaps just as many of us suffer from the torment of believing that we have done something unforgivable. This feeling of unredeemable guilt is perpetuated by the teaching that there exists a horrible and inevitably insurmountable ``mortal sin,'' a kind of sin that places a person and humanity beyond forgiveness. This is a frightening thought. It suggests a type of ultimate death penalty where divinity has run short of its own divine willingness and power to reform the sinner. Such doctrine would essentially give sin the final triumph and leave little hope for mankind.
But the Bible says, ``Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.''1 Certainly forgiveness and redemption are gifts of grace promised to us through Christ Jesus, whose very life was ``the ministry of reconciliation.''2
There is no question that some crimes lie beyond the reaches of mere human forgiveness. And certainly overlooking sin isn't a solution, because it leaves the wrongdoer still doing wrong, still hurting himself and others.
The forgiveness Christ Jesus practiced pointed to his understanding of man's true, spiritual identity as God's reflection. He discerned the sinless reality of man, and this pure expression of love freed sinners from their errors through a radical change of heart.
Christly forgiveness is still available today. It heals and transforms us so that we express more of man's original, sinless nature. Through God's perfect love we can glimpse something of each person's potential to be Godlike. Far from overlooking sin, holding a spiritual view of ourselves and others enables us to confront and overcome sin through the power of Christ. The Christian Science textbook by Mary Baker Eddy3 states, ``The pardon of divine mercy is the destruction of error.''4
Understanding the infinite nature of God, divine Love, elucidates Jesus' parable of the tares and the wheat,5 wherein a householder who had planted good seed in his field discovered that tares had come up along with it. He counseled his workers to wait until the harvest, and then instructed, ``Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.''
To some degree, every individual is like this proverbial field where good and evil grow side by side. But God does not gather together His children in judgment to save the good and destroy the guilty by fire. God never created two types of children. Rather, divine Love gathers and destroys the ungodlike, indeed the unmanlike, elements in each of us, saving the victim of sin by destroying the sin.
The destruction of sin includes the discovery of man's spiritual innocence and inherent goodness. But the spiritual baptism that destroys evil is seldom easy, whether we are classified as a hardened criminal or are ``merely'' guilty of the many ``lesser'' cruelties people commit against each other; whether we have hurt someone or are the victim of someone else's hurt.
On all sides of these classifications, individual men and women stand, crying out for redemption, for healing of hatred and its effects. Christ, Truth, brings to mankind this freedom through increased spiritual understanding and reformation.
For some, this demands great wrestling within oneself to put off the habits of sin, to demonstrate a radical change in character. For others, it demands the surrender of resentment and desire for revenge. But as we reach for divine forgiveness and live in harmony with divine law, Christ, Truth, will dissolve sin, heal injury, and bring tangible, abiding peace.
The Bible promises, ``If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.''6 Certainly to infinite Love, nothing is beyond redemption.
1James 1:17. 2See II Corinthians 5:18. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 329. 5See Matthew 13:24-30. 6I John 1:9.
BIBLE VERSE: I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity.
Jeremiah 31:33, 34