Rethinking – Guilt, Forgiveness & Redemption

One of the outstanding features of the New Testament documents is the open and honest way in which the shortcomings of individual disciples are acknowledged. For example, no effort is made to spare Peter for his denial of Jesus with his “I know not the man” when challenged. Similar cases have been included elsewhere that point to the authors’ objectivity. It’s hard to imagine someone writing a resume today listing their shortcomings like that. By the way, in tomorrow’s Gospel reading, Peter’s threefold denial gives way to his threefold declaration of loyalty to the risen Christ.

We have another example of honesty in tomorrow’s reading from the book of Acts (probably written by Saint Luke) which states that Saul (later Paul) is on his way to Damascus “breathing in threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord . . .” This could be just four years after the resurrection. Saul is determined to destroy the church, not something to be proud of, as he would later admit in his letter to the Galatians: “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I have persecuted the Church of God and tried to destroy it.”

This prayer recognizes that even the best of us will do things wrong under the wrong circumstances: “Lord, in the way of good, hold fast when we stumble; If we fall, lift us up. If we are pressured by evil, deliver us. If we turn away from what is good, turn us back.”

There was an example of this in this newspaper recently in the case of a Ukrainian Presbyterian minister in Kiev. Atheism was the state religion when he was young, but in later years he became a devoted Christian and was ordained. At the time of the newspaper report, Kiev was under attack and he, frustrated by the mindless destruction of lives, said: “When I see children’s toys in the ruins, I just want to kill Putin.” It’s an understandable human reaction, but hardly Christian. Evil is certainly contagious.

Born in England, Christabel Bielenberg had strong family ties to Ireland and came to live here in later years. As a young woman, however, she refused a scholarship to Oxford University and chose to study music in Germany, where she met and married Peter Bielenberg in 1934. They became active anti-Nazis and helped people hiding from the Nazis during the war. In an interview in the TV series The World at War, she recalls one evening how a Jewish couple hiding nearby asked her for shelter. She asked them to wait and sought advice from a friend who strongly advised against doing so as it would put her and her children in great danger. She decided to let them stay, but told them it could only be for two nights. They left as requested, but were captured nearby and later killed. Christabel Bielenberg described her reaction to the news of their deaths, saying that it was at that moment that she realized that Hitler had made her a murderer. Of course she wasn’t a murderer or anything like that, but she still felt guilty.

In The Shaping of Prophecy, Father Adrian Hastings suggests that Dr. Bielenberg could be positive: “Perhaps it is only when a person recognizes that he or she personally participates in a fellowship of guilt that the gospel analysis of sin, a divine Redeemer, and the offer of forgiveness that none of us can earn, begins logically. to become. We can then gain the power to help others discover another community far beyond guilt, a community of truly humane, of hope, of forgiveness, of love. Theologically, the universality of guilt is only the background to the universality of forgiveness. Perhaps in practice, when we convincingly acknowledge the reality of the former, we can become a credible guide to the reality of the latter.”

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