Usually when I think about the Atonement, I think of it from two different viewpoints. The first is my own—what it means for me, personally. I think about my own experiences with repenting, forgiveness, redemption. The other viewpoint is a general one. I think about the Atonement as an infinite thing, something Christ did for everyone, generally.
But I never think about what it means that he did it for everyone else, specifically, too.
I mean, I’ll think about how everyone has the opportunity to embrace the Atonement and receive the same blessings I have from it. But it wasn’t until I read a book recently by Grace Livingston Hill that I thought about it from a different angle. Hill wrote a lot of Christian romance novels, basically, starting in the late 1800s. In the book I was reading, An Unwilling Guest, a young woman, Allison, was feeling resentful and uncharitable towards a guest in their home. She was being judgmental and condemning of the guest, who was a rather snobby rich girl. Allison’s mother said to her, “Have you forgotten that this girl is a fellow-mortal, that your Savior died for her?”
I’ve never thought about the Atonement in that light, but I should have. For the family in this book, the Atonement colors everything they see. Their charitable impulses aren’t based merely on “following the commandments.” They see everyone around them as someone that Christ suffered and died for.
I’ve always loved the scripture about the worth of souls being great in the sight of God. But again, it’s something I tend to think about in a general sense. Not really, that person right there. In the checkout line. On the freeway. At the library. That soul standing right next to me is one that Christ suffered and died for.
I know I tend to overlook the obvious and this post may make me seem really stupid. Maybe if I’d served a mission I would have thought about the Atonement in this light. I guess I’ve just tended to think of it as a general thing and not a specific thing.
But there’s something else, too. In order to be forgiven, we must forgive others. I’ve always thought (and still do) that judging others was wrong because no one can really know a person’s thoughts and experiences and what has shaped their decisions. But I’d never thought about it in the light that Christ died for that person who sinned against me and paid for that sin.
What right do I have to discount his Atonement by refusing to forgive?