That’s what we can learn from that parable about a servant whose debt with his master was forgiven but could not forgive the debt of his fellow servant. (cfr. Mt 18,21-35)
The parable was said because St. Peter asked Christ how many times one should forgive his neighbor. He was trying to be magnanimous when he asked if one should forgive his neighbor 7 times, which in the culture of that time meant many. Christ corrected him by saying, not only 7 times, but 70 times 7, which means always.
In that parable, the master clearly told the servant who could not forgive the debt of his fellow servant that he should forgive the debt of his fellow servant as he himself, the master, forgave servant’s debt.
“You wicked servant,” the master told the servant. “I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?”
Again, we have to remember that since we have been created in God’s image and likeness, we should try our best to be like God who has fully manifested himself in Christ. How God is, how Christ is, should also be how we should be. In short, we can only have that forgiving heart if we truly identify with Christ.
That surely would require grace which is actually abundantly and gratuitously given. But that grace requires our human cooperation. We need to develop in ourselves, no matter difficult the challenge is, the appropriate attitude and virtues for this purpose.
We have to learn how to be always forgiving. Yes, the requirements of justice also have to be met, but forgiveness should always be given even while the requirements of justice still have to be processed.
One may ask: why should that be? Why should forgiveness be given even if the cause of justice is not yet resolved? The answer can only be seen when we consider who we really are. We are men and women, made in the image and likeness of God. Regardless of how we are, whether sinner or saint, that basic dignity of man cannot be erased.
This dignity of man is alluded to in one of the psalms: “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet…” (Ps 8,4-6)
Yes, we have the dignity of being children of God, and not just one more creature of his. No matter how much we misbehave, God, being a father, will do everything to bring us back to him. And that’s what Christ precisely did for us. He even went to offer his life on the cross, offering forgiveness to those who crucified him.
God cannot forget and abandon us just because of our sins. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Is 49,15)
Indeed, God will do everything to bring us back to him. And it’s up to us to show at least some signs of repentance for our sins and to accept the eternal mercy of God. If we do the same to one another, we obviously would make ourselves like God as we ought to be!*