by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.
There’s something about Easter.
Maybe it’s a time for ending? A time to let go of long-harbored anger and hurt.
Perhaps a time for beginning? A time to make new friends, exchange marriage vows or explore new opportunities, new career goals, follow new dreams.
Or maybe it’s a time for renewing? A time to resurrect relationships fallen by the wayside.
One Easter long ago became a time for me to learn about forgiveness and love. The kind of love so beautifully exemplified by Christ Jesus life example. A love that is powerful enough to heal and transform lives. He showed that love is stronger than hate, violence, apathy and fear. Jesus made forgiveness look natural and easy. I have not always found it so. Yet Christ Jesus instructed, “If ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? For sinners also love those that love them.”
Others have given insightful instruction on love and forgiveness. Mother Theresa advised, “If we really want to love, we must learn to forgive.” Alexander Pope declared, “To err is human; to forgive, Divine.” And Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Love your enemies, or you will not lose them; and if you love them, you will help to reform them.”
So what about forgiveness? How can it be natural and easy to forgive someone who has caused hurt, pain, disappointment? And why should I forgive, especially when I am the innocent one and justified in my anger, hatred, and resentment?
A neighbor spoke to me in such a way that I thought was unforgivable. The entire event revolved around what appeared to be an on-going irreconcilable situation. The only obvious solution was to move. Something I really did not want to do. Thus, my dilemma. It was the Saturday before Easter Sunday.
Have you ever attended a church service and felt like the sermon was directed right at you?
I sat there listening to readings about Christ Jesus, his enemies crucifying him, his friends deserting him and yet…he forgave them all, he never stopped loving – friend or foe. I longed to love in such a way. I thought perhaps it was his love that enabled him to conquer death and the grave and all the evil that had been directed at him and inflicted upon him. I can only say there came a moment during that Easter service when I felt nothing but compassion and yes, love for the one who had wronged me.
Mary Baker Eddy in her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, describes the “universal solvent of love” as what’s needed to dissolve self-justification. I had certainly swallowed a big dose of that! I had been focused on being justified in my reactions and in being “right”. Consequently, love was nowhere to be found in my heart or in my reasoning.
And here’s the thing. As I forgave, I felt free from the effects of another’s evil intent. Forgiving wasn’t erasing history or exonerating. But forgiving was relinquishing the destructive power of anger that would have continued to imprison me and determine my actions, thoughts and words. I wasn’t putting the heavy baggage of another’s evil behavior on my back. Forgiveness dared me to imagine a better future. One that was based on the blessed possibility that my hurt would not be the final word on the matter.
I returned from that Easter church service transformed and later that day received an apology from my neighbor. We made a mutual commitment to make things more harmonious. And so they have been. Never again were harsh words spoken. We’ve been neighbors for over twenty years now. I have continued to learn more about love. The kind of unconditional love that God gives to all his children. And what Christ Jesus referred to as the second great commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
I am now convinced that forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. And furthermore, that forgiveness may be the most powerful step that people, and even nations, can take to bring about transformation, progress and growth. So most definitely….Easter is a time for forgiveness. A time for love.