But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:15
K. Chesterton writes a provocative story in his Father Brown series about an occurrence among a small clique of close friends. One has challenged another to a duel, and when a death results, the killer flees into exile. After many years, the friends learn that the runaway has returned but refuses to reenter society. There is great talk about forgiveness and the justification of the duel (which was legal in those days).
The well-intended friends discuss how best to coerce their friend to leave his isolation even as Fr. Brown cautions against it. Finally, they force the recluse’s hand only to discover that the living person is actually the one thought to have been killed while the dead friend was essentially murdered by the living.
The little group is incensed. Brown chastises them saying that they forgive only those sins that they think aren’t really sins (such as a duel) while tolerating “conventional” wrongs. Someone protests that what was done was vile, and Brown counters with, “…leave [me] to console those who really need consolation; who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend; and none but a priest will pardon. Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes; mean as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came.” By twos and threes the others left in silence. In the story Chesterton is not pardoning the killer; he is forgiving him—while pointing out the hypocrisy of his “friends.”
Do you ever quantify sin? This sin is worse than that—this is nothing while that is heinous and unforgivable. If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand (Psalm 130:3)? And yet, it’s so easy to slip onto the judge’s bench and point fingers. Let us leave the judging to God and become the best forgivers in the Kingdom. After all, he forgave us.
Father, pull me up short whenever I am tempted to withhold your forgiveness from any one. Love through me and forgive through me. Heal through me. Restore through me. For your Kingdom’s sake and for your glory. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.