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Debts to forgive

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

Recently, Institutions have been encouraged to forgive the debts of impoverished nations. Organizations are working toward alleviating the poverty of individuals, be it financial or moral. Many others are wrestling with how to forgive and find peace in the face of the apparently unforgivable.

I, too, have been working to see what debts I can forgive. Looking to the Bible for direction on how, I started with the prayer, given by Jesus, which includes the plea, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Matt. 6:12). Moving to the stories Jesus told about forgiving debts, I found that love was involved. For example, he illustrated that when a great debt was forgiven, greater love resulted (see Luke 7:36-48).

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So in related study, it wasn't surprising to see that Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, who surmounted both stifling poverty and persecution, provided a spiritual interpretation of Jesus' forgiving phrase that reads "And Love is reflected in love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 17).

What does that mean for me? I can start by loving. In fact, just to relieve someone of financial or of any other kind of debt without also cherishing the worthiness, promise, and goodness of that person doesn't seem like it would really solve or heal anything.

In relationships with others, I've often found it helpful to appreciate the good qualities inherent in them that make their mistakes, flaws, or debts negligible and/or forgivable. But I've also found that it is more powerful, especially in painful situations, to elevate this process into a prayer, where I look beyond human nature and conditions to the pure, wholly good, God-given nature that we all possess as God's spiritual offspring.

In this spiritual light, if God is Love, then we as God's children must reflect His love. God wouldn't, couldn't create us any other way. Discerning the inherent spiritual loveliness in others, even when it isn't immediately visible, is a blessing to them. It is also an expression of our own true nature, and therefore becomes a blessing to us. This recognition is truly letting God, Love, be "reflected in love." It turns any interaction into a mutual exchange of blessing, in which no debt can be incurred.

For example, I once dated a man who was incredibly critical of me – of my moral inclinations, my faith, and my friends. I felt my individuality and worth being threatened. It was painful. When I finally left him, many of my loyal friends said that some of the things he did were unpardonable. At first I also secretly condemned myself for staying with him as long as I did. Still, I was able to forgive both of us.

I had to do more than just acknowledge his and my good human traits. That was partly what had gotten me in trouble in the first place. I had to see beyond human emotions, because those are fallible, limited, and can be deceptive. I had to understand that we were both God's blessed children, living for God's purpose, expressing God's qualities, even if it didn't seem that way on the surface.

By persistently taking that approach, I feel only love for all involved, including myself. Taking the opportunity to love, and to feel the blessing that comes from loving, has canceled any "debts" that I used to feel might exist between us.

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I've also concluded that it is indeed true that "you can't love and hate at the same time." In those moments when I've recognized God, Love, as ever-present and omnipotent good, and His offspring embraced in that goodness, then evil, hatred, fear, and poverty have been silenced.

There is certainly plenty more work to do before indebtedness and poverty are entirely destroyed in the world. And I have plenty more situations to heal in my life. But I'm grateful for every effort of each individual, no matter the field of their positive endeavors or the debts they are working to forgive. Everyone's love makes a difference. And I'm grateful to know that I can play a part by expressing God, Love – by lovingly forgiving the best I can.

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

Romans 13:8