By Quin Hillyer at PJ Media;

The themes of forgiveness resound heavily in this week’s readings from Genesis 50, Psalm 103, Romans 14 and Matthew 18. Joseph forgives his brothers who had sold him into slavery; the Lord forgives us; the Lord tells us to forgive (or not pass judgment on) our brothers and sisters; and Jesus tells us to forgive each other 77 times in preparation for telling a parable about the master who forgave his servant.

The immediate lessons for all of us are obvious: God wants us to offer a spirit of forgiveness to each other whenever we can bring ourselves to do so. Again and again (77 times!) we should forgive, and forgive, and forgive.

But the readings also make clear that ultimately it is God and only God who can provide the ultimate forgiveness — that God, not us, is the judge of transgressions, and God who knows our hearts well enough to know if our remorse is genuine enough for us to truly seek forgiveness. (Repentance is an almost-always-necessary predicate for forgiveness, although God’s mercy is unfathomably deep and thus He holds within Himself the power to forgive whenever He pleases.)

There are times, though, when it is not in our power at all to forgive. There are times when the original transgression was not directly against us, or against us personally, but against others, or against society as a whole. In those times, it would be presumptuous for us to pretend to be offering absolution; we have no business providing — as it were — a “third party” forgiveness.

But what we can do, perhaps, is to help a transgressor find and open himself up to God, so that the transgressor, the sinner, can repent and truly seek the forgiveness that is God’s to give.

All of which leads me to a remarkable book about a remarkable, ongoing, faith-based endeavor. The endeavor is called Kairos Prison Ministry; as its name indicates, it is an organized program via which criminals (even ones who have committed heinous acts) are ministered to in a way that, if all goes well, will open their hearts to God. (“Kairous” is a Greek word loosely translated as “God’s special time.)….

[The rest of this column is here.]