Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we did during World War II. And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue; it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. ‘That sort of thing makes me sick.’ they say. And half of you already want to ask me, ‘I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?’
So do I. I wonder very much. Just as when Christianity tells me that I must not deny my religion even to save myself from death or torture, I wonder very much what I should do when it came to the point. I am not trying to tell you in this book what I could do—I can do precious little—I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find, ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.’ There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it.