Some would say that he is a retributive judge, who cannot forgive unless the penalty for sin has been paid.

Others would say that he is kind, forgiving and merciful.

The first view is not even an Old Testament portrayal of. Ezekiel 18:24-32 tells a different story of God's justice.

If a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. Yet the Israelites say, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust (Ezek 18:27-29)?
If the person turns from their wickedness, they will live. Their wickedness will no longer be held against them, but will be forgotten. The Israelites said that this was unjust, but God disagreed. He said they were unjust, so they did not understand God's justice.

At the end of the prophet's message, God makes his attitude clear.

Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD (Ezek 18:31-32).
God does not want people to die for their sins. He wants to give them a new heart and a new spirit. He does not take pleasure in people being punished.

If we look at the life of Jesus, the answer to the question above is obvious. When he met ordinary, broken people he did not demand that they face retribution for their sins. He did not say that the had to pay the price of justice before he could forgive them and heal them.

When the leper to him asking for mercy, he reached and touched him. He then healed him (Mark 1:40-41). Jesus forgave the sin of the paralysed man who was lowered through the roof (Mark 2:5,11-12). He did not require him to meet the demands of justice first.

Imagine this end to the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31).

While the lost son was still a long way off, his father saw him, and sent a servant to explain that he wanted to forgive him, but that he would have to repay the debt he owed before he could do so.
This does not have the same ring as the parable that Jesus told.

Imagine this ending to the parable.

While the lost son was still a long way off, his father saw him. He wanted to forgive him, but he couldn't until the debt was paid. So, the father called the older son and demanded that he pay the debt that his brother owned. When the son had repaid the debt at considerable cost, the father welcomed the lost son that he had never stopped loving.
This does not make sense, but it is what many Christians preach.

Paul explained what God has done in his letter to the Romans.

All are put right freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24).
This redemption came freely by his grace.
He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time (Romans 3:25-26).
God chose to pass over sins committed beforehand. He was happy to forgive, because this demonstrated his righteousness.

Some preachers say that God demands propitiation for sin, ie his wrath has to be satisfied. That is not true. It is the spiritual powers of evil who had to be propitiated, because humans had let them grab authority over the earth from them.

I never had to propitiate my father, ie give him a gift to calm down his wrath. Everyone would agree that a son who had to propitiate the anger of his father with a gift had a terrible father.

The idea that God needs retribution for sin before he can forgive them is a distortion of his character. It is Satan who accused people and demands retribution against them. Jesus died to satisfy his demands for a ransom.