Agape love doesn’t keep score

September 21st, 2022

Forgiveness, so crucial in Christianity, receives little attention in the teachings of Christian Science. Why is that, and what are the consequences?  The Lord’s Prayer, along with outlining several things we affirm about God and several things we ask God to do, states just one thing that we are to do.

That one thing is to forgive our debtors, forgive those who trespass against us. It isn’t a lot, compared with all that we’re petitioning the Father to do for us—including the forgiveness of our own huge debts to Him.

But it must have been very important to Jesus, for him to have included it in this short model prayer that was to guide all his followers throughout all time. Jesus is saying, I think, that if we want to live a forgiven life in his kingdom, we must lead a forgiving life in the here and now.

My debt of sin, of course, is fully and unconditionally paid by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. With free will, however, I still have the option of refusing to forgive others, thereby rejecting the salvation he offers me and excluding myself from his forgiveness.

At that point, the world I’ve chosen to inhabit becomes a harsh place indeed, a pay-to-the-last-farthing world. Jesus dramatizes this in his parable of the hard-hearted servant, Matthew 18.

A striking feature of the parable is the extreme disparity between the servant’s debt that is canceled, a whole lifetime’s earnings, and the subordinate’s debt that remains unforgiven, barely three months’ wage. If that’s my ledger of liabilities and assets, I’m dead broke.


What a fool I’d be to scratch and squeeze for the relative pittance owed me, all the while ignoring the vast unpayable sum I’m on the hook for. Best face facts, get real about my spiritual bankruptcy, and seek shelter under God’s infinite mercy.

And there’s more. With my decision to lead a forgiving life comes not only the release from debtors’ prison (a self-sentence), but a whole new experience of freedom and fellowship where old rivalries and hostilities melt away.

We’re shown, in the Lord’s Prayer, a God who doesn’t keep score on His beloved children—and by grace, in turn, we gain the ability to cease keeping score on each other.

Right and wrong remain as real as ever. Disobedience still carries consequences. Responsibility and accountability are still inseparable from the freedom we enjoy in Christ. But the Father’s infinite love for us, shown in giving His only Son, dissolves our impulse of mutual fault-finding and replaces it with kindly patience.


Agape love, godly charity, “keeps no record of wrongs,” according to I Corinthians 13:6 (NIV). Isn’t that what we want the church to look like? Isn’t that the forgiving way of life of the people of God?

The striving, sweaty, competitive, perfectionist, legalistic side of me recoils from what might seem the laxness of any community of fallen (though redeemed) human beings who have stopped keeping score. Think of how some would take advantage and free-ride. I shudder.

Utopian? You might say yes, but I don’t think so, not when we look at the radically new way Jesus did everything. His justice and ethics, his math and medicine, his physics and chemistry, his economics and politics, his risk assessment and reading of character, his mastery of time and space—all defy conventional debit-and-credit bookkeeping.

All attest, instead, the outpouring of inexhaustible grace from Father, Son, and Spirit into an exhausted world. Revolutionary!

So I stand by my statement. We must be and can be a people who don’t keep score, because we serve a God who doesn’t keep score. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Love keeps no record of wrongs.


Sadly, however, neither the imperative of forgiveness toward myself and others nor the gospel of God’s forgiveness toward us was impressed on me at all during my almost fifty years in Christian Science.

Whereas “forgive” and its related words are used almost a hundred times in the Bible, they appear barely a dozen times in Science and Health. Which is natural enough, given that Mrs. Eddy insists sin is unreal, a mere false belief requiring neither to be paid for nor owned up to.

Thus her paraphrase of Jesus’ prayer, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” reads simply, “Love is reflected in love” (SH 17).

Poof, debts all gone! Both the petition for God’s forgiveness to me and the command for my forgiveness to others are wished away with a metaphysical platitude utterly unrelated to our fallen human condition.

Since only persons, moral agents, can sin or be sinned against, the impersonality of God and man alike, stipulated by CS, theoretically leaves no room for either an offense or its absolution. Yet common sense burdens every CS’er with massive unresolved guilt toward God, self, and others. Failure abounds, and it’s toxic to the soul.

As I have written in my book Discovering a Larger God, it was the crisis of facing up to my own sinful selfishness and loveless betrayal of wife and children that propelled me out of Christian Science and into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Love reflected in love” hadn’t the least thing to do with it. Indeed, looking back, it horrifies me to see how the empty sentimentalism of such morally vacuous notions actually enabled my secret life of sin.


There were painful and difficult lessons about mutual forgiveness for both me and my wife to learn as we rebuilt our shattered marriage. We each became, in important ways, entirely new people in realizing the Father’s forgiveness of us through the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of his Son.

Learning not to keep score on each other (still a work in progress, to be honest) has been wonderfully freeing for us. Serving—and when opportunity permits, witnessing for—a God who doesn’t keep score on any of His dear children, has become our greatest joy.





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