Taking the Side of Forgiveness
A COUPLE of years ago my marriage underwent tremendous turmoil. I remember being surprised at the time when friends started to take sides -- to decide who was right and who was wrong. And yet it seemed clear to me even then that neither of us was completely right or wrong. Much forgiveness and understanding were needed on both sides. But forgiving doesn't always come as easily as judging and condemning. This was the case with a man who invited Jesus to dine with him. When a woman came into the room and washed Jesus' feet and anointed them with ointment, Simon the Pharisee self-righteously thought, ``This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.''
Jesus rebuked Simon's self-righteousness with a parable and then proceeded to tell him what he had neglected to do: ``I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet.... My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.''1
Doesn't this show that the unforgiving Pharisee needed to know more of his own failings? And isn't that usually the case?
What do we need to learn about ourselves in order to be forgiving? Perhaps first of all we need to see that there is much good still required of us -- that regeneration is always needed. It's important that self-righteousness not blind us to our own shortcomings. In the Lord's Prayer, Christ Jesus said, ``Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.''2 This humble desire acknowledges that there are things for which we need to be forgiven and things we need to forgive. The two go hand in hand.
Jesus also showed us that we are all, in truth, God's loved children. And his mighty works and healings point to the freedom from evil and the dominion that are included in that heritage. This freedom and well-being come from an understanding of our true identity -- the wholly spiritual selfhood that is ours as the image and likeness of God, Spirit. This perfect, true individuality can never be separated from God, good -- can never be victimized or unjustly treated or taken advantage of.
As Mary Baker Eddy3 writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``The divine nature was best expressed in Christ Jesus, who threw upon mortals the truer reflection of God and lifted their lives higher than their poor thought-models would allow, -- thoughts which presented man as fallen, sick, sinning, and dying. The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea, -- perfect God and perfect man, -- as the basis of thought and demonstration.''4
When this reality is the basis for our actions, forgiveness becomes not only possible but essential. To walk with the Master, to follow Christ in our daily lives, is to express love, mercy, and compassion. As Paul tells us, ``Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any.''5 When we follow humbly the example of the Master, and learn something of our wholly spiritual nature, mercy and forgiveness take their rightful place in our lives. As this happens, we come to see that we all are truly on the same side -- the side of God, good.
1See Luke 7:36-50. 2Matthew 6:12. 3The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4Science and Health, p. 259. 5Colossians 3:12, 13.