Reverend asks: 'Does the passage of time lessen guilt?'
Rev Ian Monks, St Paul's Church, Woodford Bridge
- Credit: PA Images
The problems an English test cricketer now faces, because of messages posted on the internet years ago, reminded me of one of my university set texts.
The theme of the novel was “verjährung”, which has no simple one-word English translation.
The question it poses is “does the passage of time lessen guilt and also reduce the need for punishment or revenge”? Few, if any of us, would claim to have no regrets about things we did, or failed to do, when we were younger.
When the Pharisees produce a woman caught in the act of adultery for Jesus to condemn, they are disappointed. His response is: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." No stone is thrown.
I can still remember the very formidable woman responsible for my training as a language teacher saying: “Don’t be angry with children when they make mistakes, they are telling you what you need to teach them."
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What is important is that lessons are learnt, and that a casual, yobbish, couldn’t care less attitude is replaced by thoughtful adult behaviour.
The apostle Peter denied knowledge of Jesus and wept bitterly for his betrayal. Had he died with his Lord, the church would have lost a valuable leader!
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St Paul persecuted the church, and after his conversion became a powerful force in spreading the Gospel to Europe.
While regret for past conduct can be the most powerful motivational inducement for an exemplary future life, we cannot retrospectively impose today’s standards on the past.