Question: How can we really forgive and forget when we feel that fellow church members have made poor decisions for our church or treated us poorly?
Response 1: Marian English
When Christ Jesus was asked if we should forgive seven times, his answer was decisive. “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven” (Matt 18:22 The Message). But when the baggage of hurt seems as heavy as cement, how do we forgive?
An incident years ago gave me a crash course in forgiveness. Two fellow church members had taken opposing sides on an issue concerning the church. Their disagreement escalated into criticism. It hurt, and I tried to forgive for I loved them both, but the feud raged on and church decisions were being influenced by it. To add to the burden, a loved relative was seriously ill.
One night I awoke in despair. So with the Bible, Science and Health and other writings of Mary Baker Eddy, I found a quiet room alone where I could pray. The first glimmer of hope came in a passage recommending that we fix our attention on what Christian Science teaches instead of what others are doing, and trust God to take care of the rest. (See No & Yes 7: 21-2) A basic point in Christian Science is the healing power of the Christly law to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
I had already learned that forgiveness based on personal friendship is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t heal. The hurt just keeps popping up in unguarded moments like an annoying tune stuck in your head. Forgiveness resting on divine Love, Principle, instead of personality changes things. In a moment of head-bowed, tear-filled humility I remembered the example of Jesus on the cross, who meekly appealed to his Father to forgive those who had put him there. The healing that followed changed the world.
Suddenly God’s great love became so real to me that I could feel its warmth. The mental turmoil vanished and I was free. The next morning to my great joy, my relative was well and acknowledged that Christian Science had healed her. That same day the feud no longer impressed me and it soon faded away altogether. I knew other church members were praying, too, and decisions gently became based on united prayer instead of divided opinions.
When we feel hurt or disappointed we can remember that divine Love guides, but our thought must move. It’s hard to steer a parked car. Every effort to replace unsettling thoughts with spiritual love lifts us nearer the healing altitude of that beloved prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Then we feel the powerful peace of loving our brother just as God loves us.
Response 2: Kevin Graunke
A good friend of mine shared with me a unique thought on forgiveness—one that goes way past just letting go of anger or resentment. He lifted this thought to the level of complete spiritual healing: “Forgive, and then forget that you have forgiven.”
Talk about wiping the slate clean! Being able to joyfully forgive someone so completely that, ultimately, we don’t even remember what we’ve forgiven, means actively valuing our fellow church members as healers together with us in this “greatest and holiest of all causes” (see Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, p. 177).
This perspective awakens within us a much deeper sense of what church is about, and our own place in it. When we ask our Father-Mother God to help us forgive someone’s angry words or hurtful actions, it gives us the humility to stop pushing or justifying our own point of view, as well. It helps us to replace self-will with a pure readiness to follow in whatever direction God points out.
There’s such relevant, abiding value today in the Rule for Motives and Acts, which Mary Baker Eddy has given in the Church Manual, especially her clear affirmation of how Christian Scientists reflect the “sweet amenities” [desirable qualities and gentleness] of divine Love: “in rebuking sin, in true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness” (Manual, p. 40).
No matter how badly our fellow church members may miss the mark; how far they push things, or how “wrong” their decisions look to us, there’s one thing these errors can never take away: the “sweet amenities” of our own joy of forgiving and forgetting. We don’t have to wait until we’re asked for forgiveness—that may not even happen—we can give it freely, right now, without question.
This Christlike quality of spontaneous forgiving is something Mrs. Eddy embraced so completely. She did not fire back in resentment against those who maliciously persecuted her work in bringing her discovery of Christian Science to the world. She once wrote, “no person can commit an offense against me that I cannot forgive” (Message to The Mother Church for 1902, p. 19).
In my own branch church work, I’ve had so many opportunities to follow her example—to remind myself that we are all working for the same goal, in one sacred Cause.The enemy isn’t each other; it never is. It’s the belief that there’s a divisive evil power opposed to God. True brotherliness and charitableness spread the healing balm of Christ on every wound this evil belief might inflict.
I’m convinced that if each church member truly loves and values one another—forgiving and then forgetting that we’ve forgiven—we’ll find our churches overflowing with the “sweet amenities” of divine Love!