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"As we forgive our debtors"
ELLA W. HOAG, CSD


         When Jesus taught that incomparable petition, "Forgive us our debts," and then added the yet more remarkable condition, "as we forgive our debtors," he certainly presented to mankind the way to attain limitless possibilities of good. Men have always been ready enough to ask forgiveness for their own mistakes and sins, but when called upon by Jesus to add the stipulation that such forgiveness was only to be granted as they themselves forgave, they have not been so quick to respond. Nevertheless, there has remained Jesus' assurance of the impossibility of really knowing forgiveness unless one has himself forgiven. With a sense of injury in the heart, with thoughts of rancor and a desire for revenge holding sway in one's consciousness, how can one realize the bliss of the extermination of all sense of sin?

         Jesus himself understood and demonstrated this prayer in perfect manner. Mrs. Eddy writes of this demonstration in "Miscellaneous Writings" (p. 124), where she says: "The last act of the tragedy on Calvary rent the veil of matter, and unveiled Love's great legacy to mortals: Love forgiving its enemies. This grand act crowned and still crowns Christianity: it manumits mortals; it translates love; it gives to suffering, inspiration; to patience, experience; to experience, hope; to hope, faith; to faith, understanding; and to understanding, Love triumphant!"

         And how are we to accept this great legacy of Love — "Love forgiving its enemies" — with all its attendant blessings? Our Leader opens the door to such acceptance when she interprets "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," with the words in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (p. l7), "And Love is reflected in love." Christian Science teaches that wrong is never forgiven until it is proved unreal. Forgiveness for any wrong can therefore never be realized until belief in that wrong is blotted out; and what but the reflection of divine Love can accomplish this?

         Christian Scientists are trying to follow in Jesus' footsteps; but they are not always aware of the fact that they can do this only as they are willing to drop not only the consciousness of their own sins, but that of their neighbor's sins as well. If they start, as they often do, from the standpoint that wrongs are real, it becomes a difficult matter to unsee them. Indeed, they seem to be so buttressed about with the complaints of an injured self that clear seeing appears almost impossible.

         Instead of this mistaken method of procedure, Christian Science presents the matter of forgiveness in a very simple way. Suppose one believes he has been wronged. If he will turn immediately to the truth and know that God and His child have neither injured nor been injured, that there is indeed no reality in the wrong which seems to have been committed, then he will find the reflection of divine Love flooding his thinking, and blessing will rest upon and radiate from him.

         One difficulty is that a mistaken sense of justice is apt to claim to hinder the practice of this divine method. One may think he is quite willing to drop the belief that he has been wronged, but he mistakenly imagines that his duty to his brother requires that he set that brother right. This is rarely if ever his business. Instead, if he will allow the mantle of charity to cover that brother's mistakes and shortcomings, he himself may feel the bliss which comes from true forgiveness, and then he will reflect that love which must inevitably carry blessing with it. It is not his concern whether or not his brother recognizes that he has been forgiven; but it is his right to have within himself the consciousness of having proved in his own thinking the power of Love reflected to prove the nothingness of sin. He has tasted of Love's great legacy, "Love forgiving its enemies."

         We are so apt to believe that evil is something to destroy, that there is something to forgive, when in reality in God's infinite goodness there is nothing but Love and its perfect reflection. We need not imagine, therefore, that we must dwell overlong with evil to remove it. We may always start with Love! stay with Love! and then, O joy of joys! how often we find that the claim of wrong, both as cause and effect, is completely wiped out even as seeming, while "Love triumphant" is realized by all concerned. In such forgiveness as this we find our debts are also forgiven, and we have learned something of what our Leader meant when she wrote in her Message to The Mother Church for 1901 (p. 35) : —

"And the bliss of blotted-out sin
And the working hitherto —
Shall we share it — do we walk in
Patient faith the way thereto?"

 

"'As we forgive our debtors'" by Ella W. Hoag, CSD
Christian Science Sentinel, August 1, 1925
 

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