The more I think about it, the more I believe that Love and Forgiveness are one and the same thing and the words can be used interchangeably. In the same way that you can say God is Love, you could equally say God is Forgiveness.
Preachers often discuss these words in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.” They explain it as meaning that God will only forgive us to the extent that we forgive others. If God is Forgiveness, then that reasoning is fundamentally flawed. God is incapable of withholding Forgiveness. Instead, I understand it to mean that we are programmed to be able to receive and accept forgiveness only when we also forgive those who sin against us.
If Forgiveness is Love, then that means that we could replace those words with: “Love us (who have sinned against you) as we love those who have sinned against us.” This makes complete sense of Jesus’ words that we should do good (forgive/love) those who persecute us and forgive seventy times seven times. When we do this, then we will be able to receive God’s love.
The commandment to “love one another as I have loved you” could similarly read “forgive one another as I have forgiven you” and “love your neighbor as yourself” is the same as saying “forgive your neighbour as you forgive yourself.” I wonder how many people would have illnesses if we all practiced forgiveness and love of self and others all the time.
Instead of saying “I love you” to people, maybe we could sometimes try using the phrase “I forgive you,” (where it applies). It would take on such a powerful and meaningful significance and perhaps transform relationships.
I can just hear it in my head now – the new song by The Beatles “All you need is Forgiveness”.