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The Old Testament is not, at least on my reading of it, big on forgiveness; this may be why it is cited so much more often than the New by those who seem to have trouble with forgiveness. But Jesus tells us that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. We are not simply not to kill (though we certainly must not kill), if we are angry with out brother we are liable to judgment. We are not simply to refrain from harming others, we are positively enjoined to care for those; and for those who want to smite their opponents, Jesus advises turning the other cheek; no wonder those who cannot even begin to contemplate doing this resort to the Old Testament; they seem to like the muscular God there- even as some of them rail against the Jews, it is the Jewish God they crave.

The Jews and the Samaritans hated each other, and yet twice in the Gospels we find the latter behaving much better than the former. The story of the Good Samaritan is well-known, and he was good because he showed love where he had received none, and mercy where he would have received none; he followed the precepts of the Gospel because they were written in a good heart. But there is also the Samaritan woman at the well, a sinner by her own admission, but she recognised Christ where most Jews did not. She was prepared to love her neighbour as hersef, and to acknowledge Jesus for who he is; these things came to her through faith and a humble heart. There is a type of Christian who feels that it is up to him (always a him) to insult others – these folk profane themselves by citing Saints as examples, as though they are saints and as though saints never sinned. We have a couple of those here – the tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum of AATW.

I saw that poor old QV, during his last meltdown, cited Christ judging the Pharisees as justification for him not acting according to Matthew 5:21-22; I think when folk start comparing themselves to Christ it is time to look in the mirror and have a lie down. We are called to forgive, not to condemn. Much of the damage Christianity has done to itself is down to fanatics persecuting others in the name of a God who so loved us that He suffered for us; those who do not see the profanity in this are in need of prayer – and a love which they have perhaps never received and so cannot give. During this Lenten period, we are called to renounce something and take up something. One of those might be to take up doing what Christ told us to do, and to set aside doing those things he told us not to do. For some of us, including me, that is a hard enough row to plough.

Jesus died for us though we are sinners; He showed us mercy though we do not deserve it; if we cannot even begin to do that with other sinners, then whoever it is we claim we follow, it is not Jesus – it is our own idea of him – which is not the same thing.