Why, if two people are hurt by the same person, does one of them feel they were hurt more or that they have the right to hurt more? (This person may even be putt off that the other person hurts at all.) Because one feels they have invested more and deserve better than this. Perhaps so, perhaps not. But love is not resentful, counting and adding up wrongdoing.
Rather, love seeks the best for the beloved. How so? By putting itself into the other. I put my joy into my wife’s joy, that is, it is my joy to seek her joy, her joy becomes my joy, her joy is my joy.
Here’s what’s unavoidable. The more of myself I put into her, the less of myself remains—I must die to myself. Here’s what’s also unavoidable. The less of myself that remains, the more of my self I find. This shouldn’t surprise us, though, since we are made by Love Himself. When a creator creates, he hasn’t lost a part of himself, but in his creation he has found, brought out, given, made known a part of himself that was previously unknown, and in so doing is more himself not less.
A man stuck on an island will know himself less, be less himself, than one who is blessed with a full house. We come closest to who we were made to be when we love others, when we give ourselves to them and for them. This includes the delight of play and laughter, as well as the sorrow of pain and tears. Love is not selfish, excluding what may not benefit it. Love understands that what won’t die can never fully live; that what refuses to be broken can never truly be shared. Even after the broken pieces are picked up, the fragrance from a “wasted” jar has filled a room, the expensive oil absorbed into the body (Mark 14:3).
Love between two people can be such that when you are hurt by me, I am hurt; when I am hurt by you, you are hurt. We feel a loss because love unites, and where there is loss there is separation and hurt. The greater the loss, the greater the wound, the greater the hurt.
However, wounds can be healed. If the wound is unattended, an infection will result. The wound cannot blame the infection for being there. A wound seeks to be closed. If there is no doctor nor remedy, then so be it. But if there is a cure, something that will deal with the wound and clean and care for it, who would refuse to be healed?
How do wounds heal? Forgiveness.
To forgive is only possible through love. To forgive is to say, “It was all a gift. You were worth the cost. You owe me nothing.” Rather than seeking its repayment, forgiveness releases the debt, but only by absorbing it. You take the hit, you suffer the loss.
On the one hand forgiveness isn’t free. There is always a cost. But let us be careful or else what we come to mean and expect is that we forgive only after others have come to earn it at their expense not ours. No. Forgiveness always costs me. I release others from their debt to me.
On the other hand forgiveness is free. It costs me nothing, because it cost someone else something, in fact, everything. The heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that because I am a sinner I am unforgivable before a holy and just God. This is not the same as saying that God is an unforgiving God. Far from it! Rather than holding this eternal debt and punishment over my head, God who is holy but also love has released me from my debt by absorbing it into himself at the expense of his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. His death was my death on a cross, his death became my death, his death is my death. But in his resurrection, his resurrection is my resurrection, his life becomes my life, his life is my life.
Since Jesus alone has done this, forgiveness is free only in him. When we receive Jesus as our Savior, we receive forgiveness of our sins. Our heart is cleansed of the old, remade, and filled with the new. By the wounds and scars of Jesus we are healed.
So we recognize on the one hand the cost we could never pay, on the other the gift we could never buy, and with both arms opened by love we embrace others in this costly-but-free forgiveness. In truth, nothing is ever lost in Love, only ever gained.