How many of us would offer a second chance to others?
BEFORE his trial had even begun, most people had a fairly clear decision made in their minds as to the guilt or innocence of the South African Paralympic Champion, Oscar Pistorius.
The old days of presuming innocent until proven guilty doesn't hold much sway for many people nowadays (maybe it never did), and without any clue of the motives that Pistorius would have needed to murder his girlfriend, a lot of us are ready to act as judge, jury and executioner.
If he is found guilty, what kind of punishment should he receive; should he get the death penalty, or should he be allowed to serve his punishment in prison, and then be rehabilitated back into society and rebuild his life? Should he be offered a second chance at all? Luckily we aren't the ones charged to answer these questions, and to decide Pistorius' fate, but it's no harm to ponder a moment on the magnitude of what's involved.
One of the daily mass readings last week was about Jesus teaching his followers how to pray, and he told them they should pray using words which today make up the 'Our Father' prayer. At the end of the reading he warns that as we ask to be forgiven our trespasses, so too we promise to forgive those who trespass against us.
The Good News of Jesus Christ focuses a lot on the second chance, and for Christians 'Lent' is traditionally a time when we remember Gods forgiveness, and the second chance that he offers to us every time we sin. Lent is a time to seek forgiveness and to change our lives, and to try to start again. But the key to receiving that second chance, is that we in turn give it to others.
If any of us were in charge of the world, I wonder how many of us would offer the second chance to others? Should convicted murderers be given a second chance? Should they be allowed to go free with their promise not to offend again?
What about rapists or paedophiles, where they have shown true remorse and sorrow for their crimes, and received treatment and rehabilitation? Or would we be better never to risk forgiving them and allowing them a second chance at life? If we were in charge, I think many of us, myself included, would say throw away the key!
On the opposite side of the coin, if you or I had made a mistake and gone down the wrong path, and later sought forgiveness and a second chance to start again, would we not be extremely grateful for mercy and forgiveness shown to us? I
f a member of our family had committed a serious crime, wouldn't we want leniency shown to them, so we could help get them back on the straight and narrow? Then again, if your family member had been the one murdered or assaulted, you would certainly want vengeance.
I think the kernel of the question is whether we would be as quick to show forgiveness as we would be to seek it; whether we'd forgive those who trespassed against us before we sought forgiveness for our own trespasses.
God offers the second chance unconditionally, and God is forgiving no matter what, because God sees the good in even the most vile human being. Buried beneath whatever badness and evil seems to consume the human heart, God knows that there's a pure spirit deep inside, because He put it there.
Let's be open to Him loving us unconditionally.