“Just one more thing, remember the Christian like for like, eternity’s like for like. . . .
“. . . Christianity is not infrequently presented in a certain sentimental, almost soft, form of love. It is all love and love; spare yourself and your flesh and blood; have good days or happy days without self-concern, because God is Love and Love—nothing at all about righteousness must be heard; it must all be the free language and nature of love. Understood in this way, however, God’s love easily becomes a fabulous and childish conception, the figure of Christ too mild and sickly-sweet for it to be true that he was and is an offense to the Jews, foolishness to the Greeks—that is, as if Christianity were in its dotage.
“The matter is altogether simple. Christianity has abolished the Jewish like for like: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’; but it has replaced it with the Christian, eternity’s, like for like. Christianity turns our attention completely away from the external, turns it inward, and makes ever one of your relationships to other people into a God-relationship—then you will surely receive like for like in both the one and the other sense. In the Christian sense, a person ultimately and essentially has only God to deal with in everything. . . . But having only God to deal with in everything . . . is simultaneously the highest comfort and the greatest strenuousness, the greatest leniency and rigorousness. . . .
“. . . God’s rigorousness is leniency in the loving and the humble, but in the hardhearted his leniency is rigorousness. This leniency, that God has willed to save the world, becomes the utmost rigorousness to the person who refuses to accept this salvation, an even greater rigorousness than if God had never willed it but would only judge the world. See, this is the unity of rigorousness and leniency; that you relate yourself to God in everything is the greatest leniency and the greatest rigorousness.
“Therefore, if you listen carefully, in what most definitely must be called Gospel you yourself will hear also the rigorousness. . . .
“. . . The Gospel is not the Law; the Gospel will not save you by rigorousness but by leniency; but this leniency will save you, it will not deceive you; therefore there is rigorousness in it.
“If this like for like holds true even in relation to what most definitely must be called Gospel, how much more, then, when Christianity itself proclaims the Law. It is said, ‘Forgive, then you will also be forgiven.’ . . . Christianity’s view is: forgiveness is forgiveness; your forgiveness is your forgiveness; your forgiveness of another is your own forgiveness; the forgiveness you give is the forgiveness you receive, not the reverse, that the forgiveness you receive is the forgiveness you give. Pray to God humbly and trustingly about your forgiveness, because he is indeed merciful in a way no human being is; but if you want to make a test of how it is with forgiveness, then observe yourself. If honestly before God you wholeheartedly forgive your enemy (but if you do, remember that God sees it), then you may also dare to hope for your forgiveness, because they are one and the same. God forgives you neither more nor less nor otherwise than as you forgive those who have sinned against you. . . .
“Therefore to accuse another person before God is to accuse oneself, like for like. If someone is actually wronged, humanly speaking, then may he take care lest he be carried away in accusing the guilty one before God. . . . if you . . . now privately want to complain to God about your enemies, God will make short shrift of it and bring charges against you, because before God you yourself are a guilty party—to accuse another is to accuse youself. . . . if you address him in his capacity as judge, it does not help that you mean he is supposed to judge someone else, because you yourself have made him into your judge, and he is, like for like, simultaneously your judge—that is, he judges you also. But if you do not engage in accusing someone before God or in making God into a judge, then God is the gracious God. . . .
“Like for like; indeed, Christianity is so rigorous that it even asserts a heightened inequality. It is written, ‘Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but do not see the log that is in your own?’ A pious man has piously interpreted these words as follows: The log in your own eye is neither more nor less than seeing and condemning the splinter in your brother’s eye. But the most rigorous like for like would of course be that seeing the splinter in someone else’s eye becomes a splinter in one’s own eye. But Christianity is even more rigorous: this splinter, or seeing it judgingly, is a log. . . . Is this not a rigorousness that makes a mosquito into an elephant! . . . How uncircumspect to judge so rigorously in God’s presence that a splinter comes to be judged—like for like; if you want to be that rigorous, then God can outbid you—it is a log in your own eye. . . .
“How rigorous this Christian like for like is! The Jewish, the worldly, the bustling like for like is: as others do unto you, . . . do likewise unto them. But the Christian like for like is: God will do unto you exactly as you do unto others. In the Christian sense, you have nothing at all to do with what others do unto you. . . . You have only to do with what you do unto others, or how you take what others do unto you. The direction is inward; essentially you have to do only with yourself before God. . . . what you do unto people, you do unto God, and therefore what you do unto people, God does unto you. . . . like for like. God is actually himself this pure like for like, the pure rendition of how you yourself are. If there is anger in you, then God is anger in you; if there is leniency and mercifulness in you, then God is mercifulness in you. . . . God’s relation to a human being is at every moment to infinitize what is in that human being at every moment.
“Echo . . . lives in solitude. Echo pays very close attention, oh, so very close, to every sound, the slightest sound, and renders it exactly, oh, so exactly! If there is a word you would rather not hear said to you, then watch your saying of it; watch lest it slip out of you in solitude, because echo promptly repeats it and says it to you. . . . God just repeats everything you say and do to other people; he repeats it with the magnification of infinity. God repeats the words of grace or of judgment that you say about another; he says the same thing word for word about you; and these same words are for you grace and judgment. . . .
“. . . just as the well-disciplined child has an unforgettable impression of rigorousness, so also the person who relates himself to God’s love, unless in a ‘soft’ (1 Timothy 4:7) or light-minded way he takes it in vain, is bound to have an unforgettable fear and trembling, even though he rests in God’s love. Such a person will surely also avoid speaking to God about the wrongs of others against him, of the splinter in his brother’s eye, because such a person will prefer to speak to God only about grace, lest this fateful word ‘justice’ lose everything for him through what he himself evoked, the rigorous like for like."
Søren Kierkegaard, Works of love, Conclusion (ed. & trans. by Howard V. and Edna N. Hong, Kierkegaard’s writings 16 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), 376–86; cf. trans. Howard and Edna Hong, Harper Torchbooks 122 (New York, NY: Harper, 1962), 345–53, and trans. David F. Swenson & Lillian Marvin Swenson (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1946), 303–10). Cf. Abba Poemen: "'At the very moment when we hide our brother's fault, God hides our own and at the moment when we reveal our brother's fault, God reveals ours, too'" (Abba Poemen 64 (PG 65, col. 337/338); The desert Christian: sayings of the Desert Fathers: the alphabetical collection, trans. Benedicta Ward (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), 175).