"... first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7. 5
I heard a story this morning, about a local hotelier. He received an enquiry from the agent of a group of friends, who come every year to stay in the area. "Can you guarantee 100%," demanded the agent, "that none of my clients will be exposed to Coronavirus and that all the following checks will be made and PPE supplied...?" The hotelier looked at the list for a moment or two and then emailed his reply: "I can inform you that there are no recorded cases of Coronavirus in this village, nor in the surrounding area. Can you guarantee that none of your clients will introduce it?" He still hasn't heard back from the agent.
We can be so exacting of others that we miss the vulnerability of our own position. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of forgiveness. We may think that the wrong committed by the other person far outweighs anything we have done to them (or anyone else). And therefore we feel quite justified in taking the moral high ground, until they come grovelling. But that is a false comparison. Our standard is not measured against our fellow sinners but against the standard set by our Creator who made everything well - ie perfect! Anything less renders us "debtors" to the one who came into the world to pay for our shortcomings with his own life.
Even though he did this for us and was without sin himself, Jesus chose to forgive - even those who scorned his gift ("Father, forgive them for they don't realise what they are doing!" Luke 23. 34). This is our standard: that we forgive, as we have been forgiven. Anything less renders us deserving of the fate of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18. 21-35).
Yet that is not a licence to sin, nor should we think that Christian forgiveness is a "soft touch". Penitent criminals may be spared the fires of hell but they still have to serve their sentences. And sometimes parents have to impose sanctions, even when children say sorry (and especially when they don't!) This helps us learn the consequences of our actions and is society's way of containing unlawful and dangerous behaviour, while protecting citizens.
Let us pray that God would challenge those who do not yet appreciate their need of forgiveness, while softening the hearts of those struggling to share the forgiveness they have received from you. Help us all to be wise and gracious in exercising our responsibilities and not to confuse them with higher level authority... that we may be reconciled.