It’s true we should believe a tiger when he shows us his stripes. It’s mere wishful thinking to keep expecting someone to change when their life shows no evidence that things are indeed different. At the same time, it’s a mistake to assume people never change and to always hold them to who they were yesterday.
Of course, people change. We’re not the same person we were a decade ago, or perhaps even last week. We have (hopefully) grown and matured – changing how we show up throughout our life and relationships. But we’re still recognizable – meaning even as much as we’ve changed, there are some things that remain the same. And wisdom calls for discernment.
To be sure, we have the responsibility to change and possibly end a relationship with someone consistently bringing harm and destruction into our lives. When they’ve proven they cannot be trusted, then we accept this reality and adjust ourselves accordingly.
But often it’s our fear of being hurt again that causes us to remain suspicious of others even when they’ve shown clear signs of repentance. We doubt that people can truly change, and this hinders our ability to practice forgiveness.
But the very work of Christ in our lives reminds us we’re not who we used to be. We’ve been changed, redeemed, and in the process of being transformed into the image of Christ. And it’s pride that allows us to see this change in our lives but not accept it in the lives of others.
We hold people prisoners to their past life when we don’t allow for the possibility of change. And this is not how God has demonstrated his grace and mercy toward us.
In the end, wisely discern if the fruit of repentance is present. But don’t let your own fear and pride cause you to reject meaningful changes in the lives of others. God’s power can be displayed in their life just as it has been in yours.