Every Saint Has a Past Every Sinner Has a Future

Every Saint Has a Past Every Sinner Has a Future

Every Saint Has a Past. Every Sinner Has a Future. So what choices of forgiven acceptance are you making in the moment of the now?

The source of the phrase ‘Every Saint Has a Past Every Sinner Has a Future’ comes from Oscar Wilde’s play A Woman of No Importance.

It is spoken by Lord Illingworth, a self-serving, pleasure-seeking, and dishonorable man. In the context of the play, Illingworth thinks that saints are fools for giving up self-centered lives of pleasure, while sinners still have much more pleasure to come. Source

So let’s be ‘sinners’ and do whatever we like, and to hell with the consequences. 

But there is another way of looking at this phrase. 

It’s about owning our past and choosing in the moment of the now to define our future.

I have a little coffee coaster on my desk. It’s solid glass, and underneath, you can place a picture.

Through the glass, I see the words …

My past does not define me. It is the decisions and choices I make today

Every Saint Has a Past

What is a saint?

For many, it is someone who has exceptional holiness and purity before God.

But the point in this quote is that everyone, including those we hold most highly, has a past, a shadow, and an untold story.

We don’t have to look far to see that great ‘saints’ of the Bible mentioned in Hebrews 11 include liars, prostitutes, murderers, adulterers, and the arrogant.

Jacob was a liar, Peter had a temper, David had an affair, Noah got drunk, Jonah ran from God, Paul was a murderer, Gideon was insecure, Miriam was a gossip, Mary was a worrier, Thomas was a doubter, Sara was impatient, Elijah was moody, Moses stuttered, Zaccheus was short, and Abraham was old.

When we venerate someone, we hold them high only to discover that under the adornments, they are just like us. Humans, making human decisions and coming up short.

Every Sinner Has a Future

I think this is my favorite quote about sin.

Sin is not a distance. It is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction. Simone Weil

It’s both the large gazes in the wrong direction and the ever-so-slight shifts of gaze away from God. It’s not just the huge public sins that everyone sees and throws stones at, but also the slight moments of arrogance and pride that nobody sees and comments on.

Every sinner has a future speaks to our opportunity to carry on shifting our gaze away from God but also the choice to shift our gaze back to God and to keep our attention there.

We have a choice in this moment of the now to refine our focus.

Who is the perfect judge of you?

We make judgments of ourselves and others. Are these behaviors of a sinner or a saint? Am I hitting the mark or falling short? Shall I continue throwing stones at myself or bathe with God’s grace?

There is only one perfect judge of everything you do. Only one.

The Psalmist asks the investigator to examine.

1-6 God, investigate my life;
    get all the facts firsthand.
I’m an open book to you;
    even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
You know when I leave and when I get back;
    I’m never out of your sight.
You know everything I’m going to say
    before I start the first sentence.
I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in!

7-12 Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit?
    to be out of your sight?
If I climb to the sky, you’re there!
    If I go underground, you’re there!
If I flew on morning’s wings
    to the far western horizon,
You’d find me in a minute—
    you’re already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark!
    At night I’m immersed in the light!”
It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you;
    night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.

13-16 Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.

23-24 Investigate my life, O God,
    find out everything about me;
Cross-examine and test me,
    get a clear picture of what I’m about;
See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—
    then guide me on the road to eternal life. Psalm 139

The beauty of God’s investigation is that in the end all is forgiven. God who knows all forgives all.

I can walk as a sinner in the acceptance of sainthood because God gives grace where once there was a demand for justice. God knows your all and, with compassion, forgives your all.

Where are you?

Are you hard on yourself and others? Is your judge’s gavel pounding down? Is it black and white, in or out, guilty as found, living in the crime of yesterday?

Or are you accepting of color, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and a new day of opportunity?

I dance between the two, but I want to dance more in color and light. There is an allurement there of hope.

‘Every Saint Has a Past. Every Sinner Has a Future’ has the invitation of a fresh new day beckoning me to be as best a saint as I can be in a broken world. In this day, I will stumble and shift my gaze, but I will also be welcomed back into a loving embrace by a parent longing for me to come home. (think prodigal son)

Quotes to consider

  • To understand all is to forgive all. Evelyn Waugh
  • Sinners often speak the truth. And saints have led people astray. Examine what is said, not the one who says it. Anthony de Mello
  • He condemned nothing in haste and without taking circumstances into account. He said, “Examine the road over which the fault has passed.” Victor Hugo Les Misérables
  • Acceptance is not our mode nearly as much as aggression, resistance, fight, or flight. None of them achieve the deep and lasting results of true acceptance and peaceful surrender. Richard Rohr.
  • God’s forgiveness toward me and my forgiveness toward another are like the voice and the echo. Dennis and Matthew Linn
  • Acceptance is not our mode nearly as much as aggression, resistance, fight, or flight. None of them achieve the deep and lasting results of true acceptance and peaceful surrender. Richard Rohr
  • “What will others think?” is a symptom of a disease called “living our lives through other people’s eyes.” It’s time to get properly centred. David Riddell

Questions to answer

  1. How much do you live under other people’s judgment?
  2. What verse in Psalm 139 speaks to you the most?
  3. ‘To understand all is to forgive all.’ Do you know enough yet to forgive yourself and others? God does.

Further reading

Blessed are the Peacemakers … with Themselves

Am I My Brothers Keeper? Guilt-Trip Anyone?

Doing Your Best to Live at Peace with Everyone

Barry Pearman

Photo by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash

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