“Every Saint Has A Past, Every Sinner Has A Future”

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Whether said tongue in cheek or seriously by Mark Twain, these words provoke thought.

The “Confessions of Augustine” come to mind immediately when we think of a saint with a past. He lived such a colourful and sinful life before his conversion that many a reader would find it hard to believe he could change. There are many stories (testimonies) of wicked and bad people who turned over a new leaf.

Every sinner who still has not come to his sense may still have a future as long as he is alive. The prodigal son came to his senses and was restored back to fellowship with his forgiving father, much to the resentment of his self-righteous elder brother.

But not everyone will be as forgiving as the father in the parable of the prodigal son. How many “cuckolded” husbands or wives would still forgive their two-timing or three-timing spouse?

How many parents would take back a disrespectful and profligate son like the proverbial prodigal son?

Society is also generally unforgiving of offenders despite all the yellow ribbon projects.

Law breakers have a hard time to break with the past because of addiction and also social ostracism. Giving a second chance is harder than going the second mile for most people. Those who are hard on themselves are generally harder on others.

I find myself able to forgive more easily only after I had experienced the forgiveness of God.

I had come across the proverb: To err is human, to forgive is divine, but didn’t really understand it only until I learnt of my sinfulness in God’s sight.

What are the practical implications?

Firstly, I must be prepared as an employer to give staff and Representatives a second chance or even more chances.

Secondly, I must be prepared to take in people who may have a past, provided they can get a license. What is important is whether they are now “fit and proper” and not in the past. It is difficult to discern whether a person has truly changed and stories abound of how people have been cheated more than once by the same offender. It seems some people have honed their skills in lying and deceiving until it becomes second nature.

Yet we must be prepared to give a person with a past record of wrong a chance to change and make good. I know of notorious convicted criminals whose lives have truly changed. “The Iron Man” of Singapore, Mr. Neveille Tan is one such inspirational story available in book and DVD.

Every sinner indeed has a future.

The good news (gospel) of Christianity is that even the worst of sinners can be forgiven because of God’s amazing grace. The well-known hymn “Amazing Grace” was penned by John Newton, a wicked slave-trader who came to see the light of God’s amazing grace.

“I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

He became a minister of God, as did Neveille. They epitomise the saying “Every saint has a past”.

Finally, knowing that if we have changed for the better, that it is only by the grace of God, we need to bear and forbear. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” was said in the context of prayer, but it is applicable to all life’s situations. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he falls”.

Indeed pride goes before destruction. The proud are the ones whom God opposes and who are guaranteed to fall.

I recall the words of Jesus: “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.

None did to the woman caught in the act of adultery. Neither did Jesus, but He said, “Go and sin no more”.