When does the grace of God eliminate power of the past?

The “Me Too” movement impacted all areas of life, business, and industry.  Beginning in the entertainment world, it swept through television and news agencies, and impacted the political landscape.  Producers, news anchors, a US Senator, and others were forced to give up their positions — and many have faded away.

This week the State of Virginia is experiencing a “political earthquake” as the Governor is dealing with allegations that when he was in medical school he posed for a picture in blackface along with someone in a KKK outfit.  Then the Lt. Governor is defending himself against allegations of sexual assault when he was in college.  Then the Attorney General stepped forward to admit that when he was in college, he used blackface as part of a costume at a “Rapper themed” party.

Last year, a top college baseball pitcher went undrafted by any pro team because of a juvenile charge of sexual assault came to light.

Pro baseball and football deal with the issue of domestic abuse?  How long does one have to be suspended without pay before they return to play?  should they be permanently barred from playing?

QUESTION:  When does a “stupid mistake” from the past become a permanent disqualifier from public life?  

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians [15: 1-11], Paul writes:

For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.

SAINT Paul, who once persecuted those who followed Jesus — became — BY THE GRACE OF GOD — an Apostle — a great preacher, a foundation of the church.  So, his sin, his mistake, his “stupid choice” was put behind him and he started down a new path.

Yes, there were those who were suspicious — was the change real?

Yes, there must have been those who did not want him in their company.  After all, he did hurt our friends — he insulted us — he stood opposite us.

Is this Scripture for real?  Does this Scripture have meaning in today’s world?  Should the sins of the past haunt us forever?

Is the Governor of Virginia a racist?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Without a doubt — in my mind — appearing in blackface was not smart–he “should have been more aware” and sensitive to what his actions meant.  Being a member of the KKK is certainly greater proof of being a racist than appearing in blackface.  If his attitudes and actions were racist 30+ years ago, does that mean he is racist today?

Can’t people change?

Isn’t there a difference between what someone does and who someone is?

If someone tells a lie, is s/he a liar forever?

If someone commits adultery one time, is s/he an adulterer forever?

If someone gets a DUI, are they a drunk forever?

If someone takes a ballpoint home from work, are they a thief?

If we are serious about the effectiveness of the grace of God — cannot people not only change — but, can’t they me made anew —and different from the old self?

Haven’t we all said at one time or another:  if not by the grace of God, there goes I.

Racism is evil.  Sexual assault is unacceptable.  Stealing is wrong and a sin.

It is disappointing when those held up as models fall short of expectations.  But, at what point does the sin/mistake of the past disqualify one forever and ever and ever.

We celebrate that St. Peter, who once denied Jesus, turned his life around.  We acknowledge that St. Augustine seemed to have a “colorful past” before he set his sights on Jesus.

Archbishop Oscar Romero was recently canonized — he stood up for the poor, the marginalized, and the victims of violence of El Salvador and was murdered [martyred] while he celebrated mass.  BUT, before he became a friend of the poor — and advocate for justice — he sided with the military and seemed to turn a “blind eye” to those in need.

I seem to have more questions than answers today.  Maybe we need to not generalize and pass judgment without knowing the person and where s/he is today.  What have they done to “make-up” for the past?

Criminal matters are a different — and there are various statutes of limitations.

Is their a statute of limitation for a stupid choice?

Could it be that good men and women are not offering themselves for service is the fear that their past record is not perfect?  Is there a fear that maybe something embarrassing might be revealed.

Let’s remember the words — forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Let’s think about — may the cup we use to measure mercy be used to measure mercy back to us.

Somehow, I think we all hope God will be merciful in judging us.  At  the same time, we know it is not so easy to forgive the sins of others.


About thegospelforliving

Retired Catholic Priest - now serving the community as a paralegal and charter school consultant.
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