I guess you could say I’m a sucker for the “bad guy turned good” plot line. We recently finished watching the BBC Robin Hood series, and somehow by the end of it, I was feeling a sense of grief as Robin’s antagonist (Guy of Gisborne) breathed his last. In spite of an insatiable thirst for money and power, and a willingness to do ANYTHING to get them, he underwent a major turnaround during the last couple of episodes—a change of heart, a change of character, a change of attitude, and a change of behavior. His last words (to Robin, in fact) were, “I’ve lived in shame, but because of you, I’ll die proud.”
That line reminds me of someone else who might have said the same thing. When Jesus was being crucified, he was joined by two thieves. One of those, recognizing that he deserved his lot, nonetheless reached out to Jesus, saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom!” (Luke 23:42). While a change of heart and allegiance are remarkable in themselves, the most encouraging thing about this story is Jesus’s response in verse 43: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.”
What this passage means to me is that, no matter how long you spend praying for a loved one, telling them about Jesus, encouraging them to change—and all seemingly in vain—there is still hope. As long as they have breath, there is still hope. So keep on praying, keep on sharing, keep on encouraging. The eleventh hour may come, and in a divinely inspired moment of clarity, everything that you’ve done and said may sink in, and you, too, may meet again in Paradise.