Never too late to be forgiven

"I forgive you." When someone desperately wants to be forgiven, those words are the sweetest that could ever be spoken. There are times, though, when the one person who could offer such needed forgiveness isn't around anymore, or maybe is just not willing. I remember, in grade school, seeing one student maliciously hazed all year long. Although I didn't participate, I sometimes indifferently watched what was happening. Yes, there were occasions when I went out of my way to be friendly to this student, but there were just as many times when I did nothing. It would have taken little effort to help make this person's life happier, and I used to feel strong pangs of remorse for my failure to act.

If someone has purposely or mistakenly done something that hurts another but can't or won't perhaps ever be forgiven, does that mean he or she is sentenced to lifelong guilt? Actually there is a legitimate way to find forgiveness, regardless of the circumstances, but it involves genuine reformation and restitution. The Bible states in Isaiah: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." If we truly forsake our past ways and "return unto the Lord," permanently adopting the moral, spiritually based attitudes, motives, and actions we could have had all along, God will "abundantly pardon." We are forgiven; we'll feel God's love and our burden of remorse lifted.

This occurs, though, only as there is a wholehearted turning to God for true redemption and forgiveness. Simply promising ourselves that we'll never do a particular thing again is not enough. And punishment, however strict, is often insufficient to bring true restoration and pardon. "A magistrate sometimes remits the penalty, but this may be no moral benefit to the criminal, and at best, it only saves the criminal from one form of punishment. The moral law, which has the right to acquit or condemn, always demands restitution before mortals can 'go up higher,'" writes Mrs. Eddy in Science and Health.

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Annual Meeting 1993
May 3, 1993

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