Such forgiveness is no mere sentiment. It is founded upon the deep knowledge that we should forgive, because we ourselves need forgiveness: with what measure we measure, so shall it be measured out to us. And that in turn should cause us to remember that there are more important things in heaven and earth than the particular sin before us at the moment. In other words, the faith helps to place our controversies upon a stage that is long and deep and high -- and on that stage they can fade before the glory of the God who commands us to forgive. If I keep an eye on eternity, even though I live in the passing hour and must redeem the time, still I know that I am not imprisoned in that time, and that one day all our strife will be resolved. Politics is important; it is also nothing. I have the freedom to laugh, not with a sneer, but with forbearance and generosity. I also have the freedom to say "I am sorry," genuinely, as a plea for forbearance for human weakness and folly, and not as a tactical maneuver to control the damage. It is altogether liberating, this genial humor and true forgiveness.
But what happens when that dimension of the divine is removed? Why forgive? What we see, in our Culture of Tolerance, is a willful incapacity to bear the weaknesses and follies of others; instead, we insist that no one must ever look askance at our own sin. A faithful Christian can rejoice in calumny, because he knows that even if all the world should call him a fool, he looks for praise from the One who counts, and who will reveal the truth in the end. Take that faith away, and loss of reputation verges upon a veritable loss of being, and people will snarl in fear and vindictiveness, like small dogs locked in a closet with insufficient food and water. In such a world, where politics assumes the place of god if only because it is big and powerful, a single political sin can mean destruction -- and forgiveness is the habit of a fool. It is better, in such a world, when one's neighbor has fallen, especially one's neighbor on the "wrong" political side, to take the same vengeance upon him that he would have taken upon oneself, and tear him to pieces. So, paradoxically, hell rewards according to the same principle as heaven, though not with the same good grain.
-------------Anthony Esolen, over on the Touchstone blog Mere Comments