“Should I forgive him,” you say, “since he knows who I am and who he is?” Both he and you, poor man, the exalted and the lowly, are all equally sinners. But do you yourself know who you are, and Who God is against Whom you have sinned and yet sin still? All the world is as nothing before God (cf. Isaiah chapter 40), before Whom you have sinned and yet sin still. If all the world is as nothing before God what, then, are you alone, however great and high you may be before men? So great and infinite is God, against Whom you have sinned and yet sin still. What, then, are your sins, O man, before God? And what is the sin of your neighbor who offended you? It is as a farthing against many thousands of pieces of gold, it is as a penny against ten thousand talents. Or, even better, say, it is as nothing against your sins toward God.
Painting by Harold Copping
You do not wish to forgive a small, even a very small, thing. Do you yet hope to receive forgiveness for a great thing? You, a man, do not forgive a man, nor do you, a sinner, forgive a sinner. Will you be forgiven by God, Who is eternal justice and incomprehensible majesty? You, a like man, do not have mercy on a like man. Yet what mercy do you expect of God? See how dangerous it is not to forgive your neighbor his transgressions! “I am in no way at fault before him,” you say. “He offended me without cause.”
It genuinely happens that people offend us for no reason, but wherein is God at fault with us? God is just and there is no injustice in Him. To Thee belongeth truth, O Lord, but to us belongeth confusion of face, (cf. Daniel 9:8). Nevertheless we sin against Him irrationally and without shame, and so we offend Him, and we repent and beg mercy and receive mercy. Glory to His love for man! Glory to His immeasurable graciousness.
Then as you wish to obtain forgiveness of God, you yourself should also forgive him who has sinned against you. You are blameless before him of nothing, as you say; nevertheless perhaps you are also at fault; for it is difficult for those living in society not to offend each other somehow. We sin against one another; we should also forgive one another. “I did him good,” you say, “but he returned me evil for good.” (to be continued)