I’m writing this a couple of days after the death of Martin McGuinness, the one-time IRA Commander who went on to become an important part of the peace process in Northern Ireland and in due course a Deputy First Minister in the power-sharing government. It was an extraordinary journey, and a remarkable transformation: from someone who was committed to the use of violence to someone who was able to sit next to erstwhile enemies and talk – and even laugh – with them. He became someone who was able to say: “We all have a responsibility to advance the process of reconciliation”. While I would never want to condone what he did in his earlier days, I would certainly want to applaud him for what he did later. It took a different and better sort of courage to change direction, even if circumstances had changed as well.
For me it’s a very powerful reminder that no one is ever beyond redemption, everyone has the capacity to change and learn, and no one should ever be written off. Jesus came to earth to bring forgiveness and to redeem the world. He came to show us how change is always possible; in fact, as St Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 1:15): “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”, and to model in his own life the way of peace, to demonstrate how love and peace can overcome all the hatred in the world. Let’s pray for those in the world who seem to demonstrate the opposite, and pray for further remarkable transformations in those in positions of power and influence.