“For quite a few people, there is something upsetting about the 100%-with-no-exceptions forgiveness that Jesus talked about. It is a feature that upsets conservatives. But it also upsets liberals. There is something in it to offend everybody. Except the person who needs it at the time.
What proves hard to swallow is the absolute character of it. Christ’s forgiveness includes the worst offenders you can think of, but it also includes the pussycats of life – there aren’t many pussycats, but there are a few – who have done nothing wrong or worthy of blame. It is a blanket forgiveness that puts a straight red line through the past. I write ‘red line’ because the Old Story says that Christ’s blood was shed in place of my blood. Dylan captured this on his 2012 album ‘Tempest’: ‘I pay in blood/But not my own.’ It seems obvious that this is unfair. It seems to put ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ (1966) all under the same protection. There is no distinction.
A familiar rationalization for Christ’s universal forgiveness goes like this: ‘Well, yes, it is for everybody, but you have to ask for it. The offender can’t receive it until he or she asks for it. Each person, good, bad, or a little bit of both, has to do his part. It won’t do you any good if you don’t first come forward and take it.’ That is a rationalization in service of explaining away the ‘full-service’, 24/7 gas station that Christ’s message actually is for all the cars on the road.
Can anyone really rationalize what Christ was saying when he said that people should be forgiven 490 times per action per person?” – Paul F.M. Zahl, in PZ’s Panopticon: An Off-the-Wall Guide To World Religion.