A Season of Lent: Charity (Forgiveness)

God sets the example of our charity(forgiveness) toward others in Micah…

“Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
and passing over the transgression
of the remnant of your[a] possession?
He does not retain his anger forever,
because he delights in showing clemency.

He will again have compassion upon us;
he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our[b] sins
into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob
and unswerving loyalty to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our ancestors
from the days of old.” (Micah 7:18-20)

Chesterton writes of charity forgiveness in Orthodoxy as one of the famous paradoxes of Christianity. “Charity”, he says, “gives room for good things to run wild”.

“Stated baldly, charity certainly means one of two things–pardoning unpardonable acts, or loving unlovable people. But if we ask ourselves (as we did in the case of pride) what a sensible pagan would feel about such a subject, we shall probably be beginning at the bottom of it. A sensible pagan would say that there were some people one could forgive, and some one couldn’t: a slave who stole wine could be laughed at; a slave who betrayed his benefactor could be killed, and cursed even after he was killed. In so far as the act was pardonable, the man was pardonable. That again is rational, and even refreshing; but it is a dilution. It leaves no place for a pure horror of injustice, such as that which is a great beauty in the innocent. And it leaves no place for a mere tenderness for men as men, such as is the whole fascination of the charitable. Christianity came in here as before. It came in startlingly with a sword, and clove one thing from another. It divided the crime from the criminal. The criminal we must forgive unto seventy times seven. The crime we must not forgive at all. It was not enough that slaves who stole wine inspired partly anger and partly kindness. We must be much more angry with theft than before, and yet much kinder to thieves than before. There was room for wrath and love to run wild. And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild. – G. K. Chesterton, The Paradoxes of Christianity, Orthodoxy, 1908

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