Forgiveness: a scientific defense
At the heart of Christian forgiveness there is a great truth.
And when we grasp it, we find the understanding that enables us to forgive as Jesus did.
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
During an intramural football game in college, another player intentionally punched me in the face. I did not react violently but responded with Christianly compassion for this other fellow, whom I had never before met. He then punched me again with a hook to the same spot on the jaw. I remained silent and did not retaliate. Our teammates jumped between us and took both of us out of the game in order to prevent any further conflict.
As I was standing on the sidelines, my teammates, trying to be supportive (!), told me that he had hit me really hard. Some remarked that my jaw was swelling and that it would soon be black-and-blue. Others asked me why I had not fought back. They knew of my high school football and wrestling honors, and they repeatedly said, "You could have handled him." (I was later told that this other fellow had just returned from military service in Southeast Asia and was still living in his world of combat.) 1
Though I heard these things, I was busy quietly listening to divine Love, God, and pondering Christ Jesus' example. I particularly thought of his encounter with the man in the synagogue who had an "unclean spirit." ' Jesus, perceiving so clearly that evil was no part of man, rebuked the evil spirit and healed the man. I realized that evil was no more personal in my circumstance than in Jesus'. I could only love, for Love is the only Life.
Although I continued to pray and never felt any animosity, for three days my jaw was so painful that I ate primarily by means of taking liquids or very soft foods. At lunch on the third day I became quite discouraged. I began to consider whether I should have a doctor check my jaw for a fracture or have a dentist check my teeth for damage. But almost as quickly as these thoughts came to me, I recalled how many times I had been healed through prayer as taught in Christian Science. The same infinite Truth, God, that had healed me in other instances was still true. Divine Principle had not changed. I had never been separated from Love.
Then came this spiritual insight: I had not only been faithful to Love in not responding violently toward the fellow that had hit me, but in a deep, spiritual sense there was no element of divine law sustaining that explosive outburst or any harmful aftereffect. I saw that I was not made of matter or mortal mind. I was in fact a spiritual idea, not capable of being hateful or hated. I simply could not be made a victim; therefore, there could be no victimizer.
In this spiritual reasoning I had gone beyond mere human forgiveness and a vague sense of forgiveness and a vague sense of love. I had now reached the point of scientific forgiveness -- silently perceiving my invulnerability to material or mortally mental conditions and perceiving as well the utter unreality of such seeming conditions. There was such a radiant feeling of God's holy presence.
Soon I went off to classes. It was not until several hours later that I remembered I had earlier been in pain and realized I had been instantaneously healed at that moment of revelation.
Since that experience I have, like many people, been ignorantly, selfishly, or maliciously abused, even violently threatened. But I have recalled one of the statements about Christ Jesus in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. To me the statement describes the scientific foundation of forgiveness: "He was to prove that the Christ is not subject to material conditions, but is above the reach of human wrath, and is able, through Truth, Life, and Love, to triumph over sin, sickness, death, and the grave." 2
But what about our defeats and failures that seem, because of others' mistakes or malice, to be indelibly imprinted on our lives? Jesus' life answers this question for all time and circumstances. He had been slandered and on the basis of such slander was executed. The world said he had been terminated, but the world was proved wrong! The world, with its belief in the permanence and reality of defeat and failure, did not begin to comprehend the mighty progress and victory being won during the ensuing three days in the tomb, culminating in Jesus' resurrection and ascension.
Our times in the "tombs" of pain, tragedy, disappointment, or failure seemingly caused by others may be longer than three days, but what victories God can win during that time! And what unalterable spiritual reality can be proved!
History and human memory seem to be very unforgiving, but as Mrs. Eddy explains, writing of her own life experiences, "It is well to know, dear reader, that our material, mortal history is but the record of dreams, not of man's real existence, and the dream has no place in the Science of being." She also writes, "The human history needs to be revised, and the material record expunged." 3
Jesus' resurrection from the grave is so important to mankind, not just because he overcame death but because he proved for all time and circumstances that sin is powerless and unreal; that only God, good, and man in God's likeness have a real history; and that man is not subject to material or mortally mental conditions or mortal events but is the eternal expression of omnipotent Love and is always safe.
Scientific forgiveness recognizes the allness, the supremacy, of God, divine Mind, throughout all time and space -- without any residual fear. I certainly cannot love my so-called enemy if I am afraid of him or her. Nor am I ready to bless him or her. It is as necessary to overcome fear in healing sin as it is in healing sickness, and in Christian Science the healing of sin is our primary mission, Scientifically forgiving others is essential to conquering fear. As the First Epistle of John says: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." 4
Can we be as radical in our commitment to undeviating love and scientific forgiveness as we are in our commitment to the unmedicated practice of Christian Science healing? Yes, we can and must. In fact, Christian Science healing is proof that we have scientifically forgiven -- have asserted man's spiritual invulnerability as God's likeness -- and have demonstrated our attraction to and dependence on God for all good.
From newspapers, radio, television, and our own encounters, we all know of the widespread dishonesty, violent crime, warfare, torture, depravity, greed, and other forms of inhumanity that plague mankind. Giving our support to law-enforcement agencies, courts, and juries in their efforts to conscientiously uphold humane state, national, and international law is needed but is not enough.
The family of man -- our sisters and brothers throughout the world -- desperately needs our Love-inspired, silent prayers of scientific forgiveness and our Christian lives exemplifying such spiritual discernment. Benefiting both the so-called victims and the so-called victimizers, our living proclamation of man's spiritual invulnerability naturally and necessarily promotes individual and global security.