In the creed we confess our belief in the forgiveness of sins. There is a great little passage in G.K. Chesterton about that. It’s spoken by the funny little priest he tells stories about, Father Brown. And it summarizes the church’s position on the forgiveness of sins so well, that even I, a Lutheran, am willing to say that this pretty much hits the nail on the head. I especially like the bit about ” leave us in the darkness, vampires of the night, to console those who really need consolation”. Of course, the world won’t just leave us to do that. They world will harass and harangue us from morning until night. But we still forgive the sins of those who repent. It’s what we do. Here’s the full quote: (For the whole story, click HERE)
“There is a limit to human charity,” said Lady Outram, trembling all over.
“There is,” said Father Brown dryly; “and that is the real difference between human charity and Christian charity. You must forgive me if I was not altogether crushed by your contempt for my uncharitableness to- day; or by the lectures you read me about pardon for every sinner. For it seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. So you tolerate a conventional duel, just as you tolerate a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.”
“But, hang it all,” cried Mallow, “you don’t expect us to be able to pardon a vile thing like this?”
“No,” said the priest; “but we have to be able to pardon it.”
He stood up abruptly and looked round at them.
‘”We have to touch such men, not with a bargepole, but with a benediction,” he said. “We have to say the word that will save them from hell. We alone are left to deliver them from despair when your human charity deserts them. Go on your own primrose path pardoning all your favourite vices and being generous to your fashionable crimes; and leave us in the darkness, vampires of the night, to console those who really need consolation; who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend; and none but a priest will pardon. Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes; mean as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came.”