Most people know that the way you become a Christian is to be baptised. Perhaps what they don’t realise is that one of the principal effects of baptism is forgiveness. In fact, each time we recite the Creed we point to this by saying,’We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins’.

Forgiveness is more than one person saying ‘it’s OK; it doesn’t matter’ to the person who has offended them. Forgiveness is about completely accepting the person and holding nothing at all against them.

This is too difficult for some. The best they can come up with is a grudging remission: ‘I’m not going to take this any further, but count yourself lucky.’ This, unfortunately, is not forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not simply a human act. It is part of an act that God performed for us in Christ, and which we share in when we offer forgiveness. In fact, we do not offer our forgiveness to someone; we pass on God’s.

God is able to forgive because he never holds grudges. Faced with someone who is truly sorry, God knows only how to love. But the condition of forgiveness is that we must be prepared to treat others as God has treated us. And the degree to which we forgive others is the degree to which God is able to forgive us. We cannot hold the double standard of wanting God to treat us in a way that we are not prepared to treat others. Forgiving others is a precondition for being forgiven by God.

The servant in today’s gospel wanted his pound of flesh, and it was this that got his debt reinstated. How could he expect to be let off his debt if he was not prepared to extend the same kindness to others?

As our Old Testament reading puts it, ‘Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.’



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